For many years, experts maintained that only alcohol and powerful drugs could cause addiction. However, neuro-imaging technologies and more recent research have shown that certain pleasurable activities such as gambling, shopping, screen time and pornography also impair the brain. Nobody starts out intending to develop an addiction, but recent research has proved that one in three people in the world has an addiction of some kind. Drug addiction alone has reached epidemic levels across the globe with Nigeria clocking around 14.3 million drug users of which 3 million suffered from a drug use disorder.
The colonization of the brain by addiction manifests in three obvious ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use and sustained involvement with it despite adverse consequences. This neuropsychological disorder has negatively caused an uprise in mental health-related issues and unproductivity among people, especially the youth. That’s why 14-year-old Port Harcourt girl, Deborah Folorunso developed BreakForth, a mobile application that helps users overcome any form of addiction.
According to the founder, the app helps users to remain accountable to their confidants throughout their recovery journey with the aid of a panic button feature in case of uncontrollable urges. The app keeps track of users’ progress and motivates them with daily quotes that help them abstain from their addictions. It also rewards addicts with rank badges as they successfully progress through their journey of abstinence. Folorunso’s solution addresses the UN Sustainable Goal 3: Good health and well-being.
At the recently concluded Tech for Good conference organised by Techrity in Port Harcourt, Folorunsho stole the show when she spoke extensively about the solutions her app brings to the fore. She said: “From a survey I sent out for users’ feedback on the problem and my solution, 85 per cent of the users agreed they are currently suffering from at least one addiction. Over 50 per cent agreed that they have suffered or are currently suffering from more than one addiction at the same time. This made me consider adding a feature for multi-addiction to the app. I plan to add a gamification feature to help the app to analyze the true state of an addict while having the user complete some activities. I also plan to add the multi-addiction feature for those suffering from more than one addiction.”
There are other existing sobriety apps like Iron Will, I am sober, and myAddictometer, but young Folorunso’s app has a Panic Button that the user hits to alert his/her confidants of an uncontrollable urge for the addiction which makes her app very unique in fighting addictions. The basic features of the app will be free for users but the ‘Pro’ version, which will have the multi-addiction feature, will be available to users at an affordable monthly subscription fee.
Deborah Folorunso, a student of Hallel College in Port Harcourt, developed the BreakForth app with support from her mentor, Mr Somkenechukwu Mamah, who doubles as the founder of Code Ambassadors Academy, Port Harcourt.
Code Ambassadors Academy is an EdTech Start-up that inspires and equips children between the ages of 5-17 with tech (coding, robotics, Artificial intelligence, etc.), problem-solving, and critical thinking skills to solve societal problems. Deborah’s solution was highly commended by Mr Godwin Jimmy Akpabio, the CTO of Dantown, a fin-tech company based in Port Harcourt and one of the sponsors of the Tech for Good conference.
The Tech for Good conference, which was organised by Techrity in collaboration with other tech institutions, is an annual conference that aims to showcase the impact of using technology for social good in Africa.
Techrity is a non-profit social enterprise, a community of people contributing to advance humanity through their time, money and skills. They are all about inspiring the youth to take up careers in tech through their mentorships and kickstart programmes.
In a similar development, for fintech expert and executive director, Financial Services Innovators (FSI), Mrs. Aituaz Kola-Oladejo, Nigeria has become a centre for research and technology innovation. She disclosed this at a media parley heralding the third anniversary of the organisation in Lagos during the week.
According to the executive director of FSI, a non-profit organisation committed to enabling startups within the technology and financial space, in its three years of operations, the company has made both direct and indirect impacts on the nation’s technology ecosystem through empowerment, entrepreneurship and mentorship.
Reeling out the company’s achievements since its launch in 2021, Kola-Oladejo said: “Our achievements include the promotion of open innovation among top players in the tech ecosystem and enhancement of access to Fintech APIs. So far, 16 Fintech API partners including banks already have 321 API end-points on the innovations sandbox, while 125 Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) have been created from the sandbox. With 728 corporate members, 3,438 individual members, 2,535 student members and over 1,900 participants in nine innovation challenges, FSI has indeed come a long way.”
In the past three years, FSI had organised nine hackathons aimed at addressing financial inclusion challenges in agriculture, transportation, health, trade and commerce, as well as energy. Also, the Non Profit Organisation, which has members drawn from Africa, Asia, Europe, Central and North America, played a leading role in the promotion of innovative culture in tertiary institutions across Nigeria. “Right now, FSI has 2,535 student members, 712 campus ambassadors since its launch in 2021, while three universities have shown interest in adopting the FSI platform for tech innovation,” Kola-Oladejo explained, adding, “FSI has offered 141 free start-up clinics, had 114 participants in our Business Validation series, while $81,000 US Dollars was awarded winners of our innovation challenges to commence operations as start-ups. On both national and global scales, FSI has facilitated productivity through youth and startup empowerment, and enhancement of Nigerian tech products.”