Nigerian Teen Creates ‘My Locator’ App To Find Lost Children
“Technology is the future and being able to know technology is being able to solve problems.”
This insightful quote sounds like it came from the voice of a seasoned tech veteran but it was actually said by a 15-year-old Nigerian girl, Tomisin Ogunnubi. Tomisin happens to be a coding whiz who created an app called “My Locator” designed to find children who are lost.
Tomisin, who began coding at age 12, debuted the app in 2016 using Google Maps feature to help individuals track people who are lost.
Users can also add telephone numbers to the app so they can share their location in an emergency. Since the launch of the app, it has been downloaded over 1,000 times, News One reported.
Lost children are a part of the Nigerian consciousness. In April 2014, 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. Boko Haram claimed responsibility, triggering #BringBackOurGirls, a global social media campaign for their safe return. Some of the girls have since been rescued. About 100 are still unaccounted for. The Nigerian government was criticized for failing to protect schoolchildren in an area rife with violence. Boko Haram has killed 20,000 people since 2009 in the area, Reuters reported.
“I was very conscious about security, thinking… there are different dangerous people, so I guess the idea of being able to go out safely might have been what triggered the idea for the app,” Tomisin told the BBC. “But it was me then as my 12-year-old self-thinking, ‘Oh I’ve just learned how to create applications. How about I use what I have learned to create something that can be useful to me and other people?’”
The app is vital and practical.
When you click on an alert button, it sends a text message and makes a phonecall – that is if you’ve enabled it in your settings – to a particular number that you’ve designated to it, the young inventor explained. “It could be an emergency number or it could be a family member’s number. It’s basically your choice. So in case of an emergency, when you need an urgent response, it sends your current address to that number so somebody can easily locate where you are.”
Experts in the field are impressed.
“I’m impressed with Tomisin’s app for two reasons,” said Google Program Manager Aniedi Udo-Obong. “I prefer to see products in whatever state they are than to hear about the most brilliant idea. I like the fact that someone hatched an idea in their head and was able to bring it to fruition and complete it.”
More Nigerian tech role models are needed to inspire kids, the Google Program Manager said. And there needs to be tech education programs for children from underprivileged backgrounds.
“We have seen initiatives targeted at primary schools (for) young children in other countries like Estonia, the U.K., China, Korea,” Udo-Obong said. “I have fears that we’re going to be left behind if we don’t get our own children learning at the same rate with the same tools and technologies that their contemporaries in other countries and other markets are learning.”
Tomisin said her mission has just gotten started: “I’m passionate about it because being able to make a difference is something that I really like to do.”