A dream come true: the tale of the teenage startup

Ground-breaking health app created by Kazakh teens is among the top-20 projects at Google Science Fair 2019

Elizaveta Klochkova
Dilnaz Kamalova and Dana Yerlanova

12 August 2019

Dilnaz Kamalova (aged 15) and Dana Yerlanova (aged 17) took part in hackathons and youth competitions in technology in 2018. Now, the project they started in their school’s robotics lab and  developed with the help of UNICEF Innovations Lab (Almaty, Kazakhstan) has been ranked among the top-20 ideas by Google Science Fair.

On New Year’s Eve, 2018, Dana Yerlanova made a resolution to fill the coming year with travel, studying technology, and launching her own app. It may have seemed just an unrealistic dream for a high-school student, but it’s a dream that has come true, thanks to her hard work alongside her friend Dilnaz Kamalova. Dilnaz and Dana created the Sequence application, which helps to monitor a person’s daily intake of medications.

Neither of them had any experience in application development before Sequence. Their success is the result of intensive study, as well as the support they have received from parents, friends and from UNICEF Kazakhstan.

The project began with the girl’s general interest in technology and its role in the modern health industry. They first researched the growing global trend of digitalized medical care, and observed friends and relatives who were using pill-boxes with daily slots for their medication. The girls soon discovered a worrying statistic: medication non-compliance was the reason for 30-50% of treatment failures, with people jeopardizing their own health by neglecting to take the right pills at the right time.

The idea for the Sequence pill box came from the girls’ determination to help patients, medical professionals and caregivers manage treatment plans by monitoring the daily intake, frequency and results of medication. Sequence consists of a pill box that sends notifications and a mobile application that provides reminders, as well as enabling communication across medical personnel, patients and loved ones.

Dilnaz and Dana created their first prototype at their school, using laser and 3D-printers. They then looked for interesting online tech events where they could promote their work. The real breakthrough in their development of Sequence was their participation in several hackathons.

UNICEF Kazakhstan
Dilnaz and Dana working on the Sequence pillbox.

One major success was winning the 2018 hackathon “Youth4Health: Digitalizing and Innovating in Primary Health Care” organized by UNICEF and the Government of Kazakhstan. Dilnaz and Dana demonstrated outstanding results and were placed first among the competition’s 240 participants.

In her opening speech to the Hackathon, UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore congratulated the participants and shared her hopes that the young people of Kazakhstan would contribute to the country’s development through their access and involvement with the most innovative technology.

UNICEF supported Dana and Dilnaz with the resources necessary to continue their work – including funding and equipment. They are now developing the project in the UNICEF Innovations Lab in Almaty.

The girls plan to connect Sequence with fitness bracelets, establish partnerships with pharmaceutical companies and add machine-learning algorithms to make the application more personalized and responsive to the individual needs of each patient.

Their inspiring achievement has been recognized by Google, and in 2019, the two girls attended the Google Science Fair at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California in recognition of their impressive work on Sequence.

“Coming to the Google Headquarters is a dream come true for both of us”, says Dilnaz. She and Dana are hopeful that the partnerships and network connections they found at Google will help them to reach new heights and achieve new goals and ambitions.