Recognition for social entrepreneur who empowers women to get into technology

An innovative approach to increasing female participation in emerging technology careers has earned a De Montfort University (DMU) graduate an international award for social action.

Poornima Meegammana, who studied a Master’s in Design Innovation at DMU, is the founder of the award-winning Nextgen Girls in Technology (Nextgen) initiative, which has already won recognition from the United Nations (UN).


Now, Poornima has been honoured in the Study UK Alumni Award for Social Action in Sri Lanka, which celebrate outstanding alumni who are using their UK education to make a difference in their professions, societies, and countries.

Poornima said: “I am deeply honoured to be a winner for the UK Alumni Award in Social Action. This is not just a personal milestone; it symbolises the global acknowledgement of our efforts at Nextgen to dismantle gender barriers in tech through education.

“My education at Academy of Design Colombo Grad School with DMU was crucial in nurturing my entrepreneurial spirit and providing mentorship and resources that were key to Nextgen's growth.”

This latest award is yet further recognition of Poornima’s dedication to advancing technology education development, particularly girls and young people.

Her efforts in this field have won her numerous global awards, including the UNESCO Prize for Girls and Women's Education, the International Telecommunication Union WSIS Prizes, and the Internet Society 25 Under 25 Award.

In 2022, she was honoured with the prestigious Forbes 30 under 30 award for her ground-breaking work and was named Sri Lanka's Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Women In Management.

Nextgen introduced a new programme to improve analytical, logical, and creative thinking through coding, Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics for schoolgirls island-wide.

Female university students were trained in tech skills such as advanced programming, IoT, machine learning, AI and cybersecurity to fill skills gaps, and increase employment and economic opportunities for women.

Nextgen has trained more than 7,000 students and teachers, creating a new trend for girls to study ICT and teachers using Nextgen tools and content in schools.

Poornima currently serves as director of Youth Development at the Shilpa Sayura Foundation, and is leading the implementation of the Nextgen skills programme, benefitting more than 2,000 university students and 1,000 school students.

She said: “Studying at DMU was instrumental in guiding my journey and contributing to the success of Nextgen.

“During my Master’s, I learned how to craft innovative solutions for society's most pressing challenges. This instilled in me the significance of design thinking in tech-based initiatives.

“My course championed entrepreneurial pursuits, offering mentorship and resources to students. I attended workshops focusing on leadership, communication, project management, and team collaboration.

“With this support, I was able to integrate my academic learnings into Nextgen, radically transforming and expanding the initiative.”

Poornima is also a lecturer in animation at the Academy of Design Colombo and a mentor for Epic Games’ Women Creator Programme. Achieving these roles is something Poornima sees as “a testament to the transformative power of a UK education.”

Posted on Monday 4 March 2024

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