Charles Onu


  • Program Year
  • 2015-17
  • Country of Current Residence
  • Canada
  • City/Town of Current Residence
  • Montreal
  • Current Position
  • Sauvé Fellow
  • Organization
  • Jeanne Sauvé Foundation
  • Profession(s)
  • Researcher, Software Developer, Social Innovator

  • Sector(s)
  • Engineering, Entrepreneurship (including social), Healthcare, Science/ Technology, Social innovation
  • Language(s)
  • English, French, Igbo, German
  • Mentor
  • Joelle Pineau, Associate Professor, School of Computer Science, McGill University; Matthew Harsh, Assistant Professor, Concordia University
  • Interest(s) / Expertise
  • artificial intelligence, health, health technology, healthcare, social innovation, sustainability, technology
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Impact Statement

Charles is passionate about developing high impact technologies that address social challenges, especially in resource-poor settings. He considers himself a social innovator and his life’s enthusiasm revolves around literature, music and science.


Charles is currently pursuing a Master’s at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), where he is studying extubation in extremely pre-term newborns. His project is supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and supervised by McGill Professor Doina Precup, from the Department of Computer Science. Charles is also working for St. Mary’s Research Centre, where he and a team of researchers are developing web-and mobile-based tools to enhance cancer patient services. In January, 2016, Charles was awarded Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), an acknowledgement of persons working to improve lives and prospects of citizens of the commonwealth.

Charles is dedicated to applying technology to solving some of the toughest global challenges today. With a background in electronics and computer engineering, Charles found an early passion for social work and spent several years volunteering with and eventually leading the Enactus team at Federal University of Technology (in Owerri, where he studied). He also volunteered as a researcher for the Fisher Foundation for Sustainable Development in Africa.

A Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Charles is the principal innovator of Ubenwa: software that applies artificial intelligence and mobile technology to enable timely diagnosis of birth asphyxia from a newborn cry. As a researcher in the humanitarian technology space, he has attended and presented at several international conferences including: UNESCO’s Technologies for Development (Tech4Dev), Lausanne, Switzerland (2014) and Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC) and Silicon Valley, USA (2014).

As a Fellow

In alignment with their program’s theme of Public Leadership for Culturally Diverse Societies, the 2016-17 Sauvé Fellows decided to collectively explore the complexities of refugee integration in Canada. To advance their learnings, they led a critical reading group, conducted site visits, and met with a wide range of relevant stakeholders, including refugees and parliamentarians. Their team project’s goal was to develop and pilot an approach to refugee integration in a holistic and practical way that delivered both impact and thought leadership while espousing core values of agency, inclusivity, fairness and cultural sensitivity.

In tackling the issue of refugee integration and implementing their team project, the Fellows wrote a policy brief (which they presented to several ministers while in Ottawa) and an op-ed, produced a short film on refugee experiences in Montreal as well as organized a series of public events exploring refugee integration in Canada.