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Go Girl! Ontario Tech student Japnit Ahuja wins WomenTech Network global award

Fourth-year Computer Science student’s Go Girl Humanitarian Foundation champions coding skills and technology access for less-privileged girls

Fourth-year Ontario Tech University Computer Science student Japnit Ahuja, winner of a prestigious 2023 WomenTech Network international award, delivers a TEDx talk at Shiv Nadar University in Dadri, India.
Fourth-year Ontario Tech University Computer Science student Japnit Ahuja, winner of a prestigious 2023 WomenTech Network international award, delivers a TEDx talk at Shiv Nadar University in Dadri, India.

When Japnit Ahuja was named one of Ontario Tech University’s major entrance scholarship recipients (Global Leadership Award) in the summer of 2020, the New Delhi, India student’s arrival at Ontario Tech signaled incredible promise of future success.

At the time, Japnit had already established herself as an advocate for diversity and inclusion. In fact, she was just 15 years old when she founded the non-profit Go Girl Organization, whose mission is making technology accessible to underserved youth, focusing on girls. Through collaboration with other non-profit groups and schools, Go Girl’s 100 volunteers have held more than 500 free coding workshops, teaching programming to more than 2,000 kids in Indian regional languages, including in remote regions. 

While completing her high school studies through a fully funded scholarship at Singapore’s National Junior College (capturing national-level academic honours), she published her first research paper. In accepting Ontario Tech’s 2020 Global Leadership Award, she said,”the university’s internship opportunities will provide me with hands-on expertise in the field of machine learning. This will give me the confidence I need to excel at my workplace.”

Making the most of her opportunities

Japnit’s achievements throughout the Ontario Tech Computer Science program are remarkable. She’s been honoured with Women in Technology scholarships from organizations like Adobe, Cadence and Zonta, and internships with telecom giant Telus and open online course provider Coursera. She’s given TEDx talks to share her work at Shiv Nadar University in India and Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore. She was the only undergraduate student to give a full-session talk (‘Changing the face of technology’) at the recent annual Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing Conference.

She’s also found time to be a member of the Ontario Tech Computer Science Club and Ontario Tech Engineering Students’ Society, where she’s been a guest speaker motivating other students to enact positive social change, and a panelist discussing the benefits of research and co-op opportunities during undergraduate degree studies.

Japnit’s WomenTech Network award

On December 4, WomenTech Network, an international community that promotes gender diversity in information and communication technology (ICT), named Japnit a winner of the 2023 Ada Lovelace Special Recognition Award for Women in ICT. Award criteria includes: breakthrough innovations, influential projects, contributions to the growth and success of the ICT sector, and advocacy for diversity and inclusion.

“I am thrilled to receive this honour, as it endorses my combined passions of technology and women’s empowerment, and my goal to inspire the next generation of female programmers,” says Japnit, who is on track to complete her undergraduate Computer Science degree in 2024. “Coding has always fascinated me since I was a child. And through to my research experiences under esteemed professors at Ontario Tech, coupled with strong co-op internships, I feel I am ready to make big waves in the tech industry.”

Her Faculty of Science research thesis supervisor says Japnit’s capacity to work hard, set ambitious goals and achieve them, is a huge component of her success as a machine-learning enthusiast, ambitious changemaker, educator and role model.

“During my 16 years as a faculty member at Ontario Tech, I have not encountered another student who exhibits Japnit’s passion, drive and commitment, both academically and as a student and community leader,” says Dr. Jeremy Bradbury, Associate Professor, Faculty of Science. “I’ve been fortunate to mentor and advise Japnit in the Software Engineering and Education Research Lab (SEER Lab) where she has worked on research projects at the intersection of machine learning and computer science education.”

Japnit’s honours thesis project focuses on the development of a mobile application to assist less-privileged students in learning web development and programming. Many of these students have limited access to computers but do have smartphones. Her app allows students to write code collaboratively offline and interactively engage with their code using the mobile app. This research will provide direct benefit to students in the Go Girl workshops and programs in India.

About WomenTech Network

WomenTech Network’s purpose is to make a difference globally by enabling women's empowerment through leadership development, professional growth, mentorship and networking events for professionals in tech. WomenTech Network is designed for women in various roles within the technology industry, from junior to executive levels, to nurture a supportive community, promote professional growth, and inspire more women to join the tech sector.

About Go Girl Humanitarian Foundation

Go Girl Humanitarian Foundation is a non-profit organization that hosts free workshops to teach less privileged girls basic computer skills and programming in native Indian languages. The organization has hosted workshops for more than 2,000 girls and is currently hosting five long-term technical training programs with government schools and big non-profits like India’s Child Rights and You (CRY) for the benefit and upliftment of underrepresented and less-privileged girls.

Go Girl’s mobile-friendly curriculum ensures access for students without computers. Its online presence and 20,000 followers allow the organization to reach millions of people through social media campaigns.