In 2017, Roya Mahboob won an EQUALS in Tech Award for her work as CEO and president of Digital Citizen Fund. As an Afghan entrepreneur and businesswoman and one of the first female CEOs in Afghanistan, she is a tech leader with a passion for empowering and educating women and children through digital literacy. We followed up with Ms. Mahboob to find out how things have been going since the award.
What does the EQUALS in Tech Award mean to you? Has winning the award helped you further your mission?
The EQUALS in Tech Award means that the world is supporting our vision and recognizing the importance of digital literacy and bridging the gap in digital gender equality. It’s an honor that comes after years of building Digital Citizen Fund to empower women in developing countries like Afghanistan to be active participants and innovators in tech and STEAM. I believe it will encourage us, even more, to pursue our dreams and strive to create meaningful opportunities for women in our increasingly digital world.
At the Internet Governance Forum last December, you mentioned the Digital Citizen Fund's plan to extend its work to other countries and build the first STEAM school in Afghanistan. How are those efforts progressing? What are some challenges you are facing?
We are partnering with Ada-AI to build the SaRoya Institute, a STEAM school in Afghanistan. In the past, we have seen measurable success through mentoring, and also by providing opportunities to talented and bright young girls in Afghanistan. We are now seeking to expand the program and build the SaRoya Institute to provide STEAM opportunities to youth from all over the country. We also partnered with WeRobotics for this mission and continue to find more organizations who are ready to join us.
The challenges are the funding and resources that we would need for building the schools.
Nominations for the 2018 EQUALS in Tech Awards are now open. What advice would you give to applicants for this year’s awards?
I would first congratulate them and would say this award shows how women find different, innovative ways to use ICTs to improve the social, political and economic situation for all the girls and women in the world. If we all join together to share our experiences and success--and learn from each other--then we can make sure together that millions of girls who are left behind in the world move forward with access to tools and opportunities to pursue their dreams.
Roya Mahboob accepts the EQUALS in Tech Award, 2017 (Photo: ITU)
This year’s awards have introduced a new category, Research, exemplifying the EQUALS partnership’s evidence-based approach. Why do you think research is important to global efforts to achieve digital gender equality?
It's a great idea to have research to help tackle the gender digital divide, as it represents and supports action. It’s also an opportunity to enable us to understand in-depth the problems and opportunities in the gender digital divide. With the knowledge that’s provided by research, we can implement better ways to bridge the divide, and take a better approach to effective work.