This Teen Tech Pioneer Has Advice About Making the Future Equitable
Riya Karumanchi is an award-winning entrepreneur, STEM leader, CEO—and just 16 years old. The Canadian high school student is the founder of Smart Cane, which is a cane equipped with a GPS and proximity sensors to help the visually impaired. It is generating so much excitement that it received funding, in-kind services, and cloud resources from Microsoft, among others.
Which is why next week, on November 4, 2019, at the 10th annual Catalyst Canada Honours Conference focused on the [email protected], Karumanchi will deliver a keynote about the possibilities of technology to make more equitable societies—if we take action. “There are a lot of groups being left behind,” she says, adding that we all have “the power to drive meaningful change” if we “start thinking differently and take action.”
Recently, Karumanchi answered a few questions about her remarkable journey from high school student to tech pioneer.
Catalyst: What inspired you to create Smart Cane?
Riya Karumanchi: One day, I had a chance encounter at a friend’s house, seeing her grandmother who had mild visual impairments bumping into many things as she was moving around inside. I learned that the common white cane had never been updated to take advantage of new technologies since 1921 and was merely a stick.
It hit me that there were so many unsolved problems around the world and that the profound progress I was seeing around me, on both a technological and quality of life front, wasn’t being distributed equally. The accessibility community was a huge group that was being left behind! This inspired me to ideate a solution to help improve the lives of people in my community and around the world.
The tech industry tends to be male-dominated. What changes do you think need to be made in order to attract more girls and women?
I believe that everyone has the potential to make a profound impact in the space. I know people who are smart and are in tech., but I know even more people who don’t have an interest in technology and don’t want to pursue that kind of career path. I believe that some key root causes for this are lack of exposure on such topics for young people and the prevalent notion that only men go into technology.
At the same time, I’ve been seeing an amazing movement that’s been encouraging more and more females to pursue a career in STEM, with so many resources and support. This is wonderful and we need more things like this!
Are you optimistic about the role technology will play in reshaping the future?
It is crucial that emerging technologies are not seen as an entity on their own, but instead, a tool that can be leveraged to solve important global challenges and drive humanity forward. I hope that in the future, we utilize various technologies and sciences like AI, genomics, and cellular agriculture to tackle moonshots like eradicating diseases and combating climate change. When I think of the future, I think of moonshots that will impact billions; I hope I can help play a big part in that, along with the inspiring youth my age working on incredible ventures.
Interested in attending CCH? Learn more about the event.