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Time Magazine has included Roya Mahboob on its list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In a country where many women are still confined to the home, the IT entrepreneur from Afghanistan is breaking cultural traditions. After completing her studies in 2010, she set up The Afghan Citadel Software Company (ACSC) in Herat, which develops software and databases for government institutions. It now has 25 employees, 18 of whom are women. However, for the 27 year old businesswoman, it is not just about economic success – she gives a voice to the women of her country. Roya Mahboob is building separate internet-enabled classrooms for female students. She founded the Women’s Annex, a bilingual public forum for the activities of female bloggers from Afghanistan and Central Asia, and she is currently setting up a television channel for women. “Her example shows the difference that information technology can make in Afghanistan”, says Dr. Nazir Peroz, Director of the Centre for International and Intercultural Communication (ZiiK), part of the Technical University of Berlin. After studying at Herat University, Roya Mahboob completed a six month course in IT administration there at the Faculty for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “Her goal is to actively involve women in expanding the IT industry which is growing quickly after years of devastation”, says Peroz. The computer scientist, who comes from Afghanistan himself, is working with Mahboob on various projects.
In 2007, the ZiiK introduced a six semester Master’s programme in Computer Science for lecturers from Afghanistan. Funding initially came from the World Bank and it is currently supported by the German Federal Foreign Office using funds in the Stability Pact Afghanistan, by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) in Afghanistan. “Committed entrepreneurs like Roya Mahboob work together closely with universities in Afghanistan and need good people”, says project coordinator Daniel Tippmann. “We are providing further training for knowledge multipliers who, after they return home, improve the teaching at the universities there.” Two intakes with a total of 48 students have already successfully completed the Master’s. The third round of the course begins in early 2014. Some of the graduates hold leading positions as dean, vice dean or IT director at their respective universities and are successfully helping to shape university life. Success is already evident in the training of the next generation of academics. “We are seeing that the Bachelor programmes at computer science faculties in Afghanistan are improving from one generation to the next”, note Peroz and his team in the selection interviews with Afghan applicants.
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