This article originally appeared in ITUNews.
Digital Citizen Fund recently won an EQUALS in Tech Award in the Skills Category. Over the past four years, Digital Citizen Fund has built 13 information technology and media centres in Afghanistan that provided Internet access to 55,000 people and training to more than 10,000 women in digital literacy, financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Digital Citizen Fund has recently expanded to Mexico.
ITU News caught up with Ms Roya Mahboob, the CEO and President of Digital Citizen Fund.
She explains what Digital Citizen Fund is all about in the Q&A below.
1. What gave you the idea to start the Digital Citizen Fund?
I have personally experienced the incredible power of education and technology, and I sincerely believe that it is the way to improve the future of many women.
After overcoming many challenges through technology, I realized that there are millions of girls who are just like me— curious about the world but given only a narrow vision of it. They want to explore the world and they don’t know what is truly possible for them.
So I decided to start Digital Citizen Fund, like a door to open onto the rest of the world. Digital Citizen Fund aims to give the next generation in Afghanistan better opportunities to be a part of the digital society, more control over their own lives, and education on the potential of technology and business.
2. How are you bringing innovative approaches to bridging the digital gender divide?
We create IT Centers, provide digital literacy tools such as computers, smartphones, and tablets, and deliver educational programs in public schools for girls from ages 12 to 18 and young women from 19 to 24. These programs include training in basic computer literacy to coding, website, social media, gaming and robotics.
We also deliver a financial literacy program to help young women learn how to manage money for home life and business. Thanks to this program, women are learning how to support themselves. To date, we have helped over 100 women start their own business. They have applied their newly acquired technology skills to industries including agriculture, food, fashion, handicrafts, robotics, and games.
For many, this is a dream come true. Once, a woman’s only possible future was to marry and stay at home, but now women and girls are dreaming bigger dreams and reaching for the stars. Their personal work ethic drives them to succeed, but education and technology are the keys to unlocking their futures.
For those in the prime of their formative and creative years, the internet is a world of opportunity. It is also an ideal platform for young people to learn the skills that empower them to become more independent and self-sufficient. The new generation in Afghanistan deserves to gain control over their future.
3. Can you explain why skills for women in technology is important?
Technology can help to tackle the urgent social needs of women throughout Afghanistan and globally. Providing underserved populations with a pathway to digital literacy and community- building can transform the societies in which they live for the better.
And technology has already empowered women in some developing countries by enabling them, their families, and communities to establish sustainable economic livelihoods. ICT skills provide them with more options than traditional jobs. Technology offers women access to local and international business opportunities, as well as e-commerce and creative entrepreneurial projects.
Connectivity is something that many take for granted, but many more live without connectivity. It is a necessary tool for women to gain their place in our changing world.
4. How does it feel to win an EQUALS in Tech Award for your work?
I would like to thank UN Equals in Tech for recognizing the work of the Digital Citizen Fund.
It’s an honor to receive this award on behalf of my team of teachers in Afghanistan and Mexico as well as our inspiring and innovative students.
And this award means the world is supporting us and recognizing the importance of what we are doing. It’s an honor that comes after years of building Digital Citizen Fund to empower women to be active participants and innovators in the ever-changing economy despite significant challenges. 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.
Roya Mahboob is the CEO and President of Digital Citizen Fund.