Roya Mahboob — inspiring women programmers in Afghanistan

Today I had the pleasure of listening to Roya Mahboob at the Freedom Forum at Francisco Marroquin University in Guatemala City. I had been looking forward to meeting her for some time. She’s become a hero of mine for the work she has done in Afghanistan.

While most people see Afghanistan as a war-torn country that is depleted of any resources and without hope, Roya is giving hope back to young women in the country.

Born in Afghanistan, her family was forced to leave her native country and move to Pakistan and later Iran. In 2003 she returned to her native land. She enrolled in information and communications technology courses offered for women by the United Nations Development Program. Later she enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science Herat University in 2005 She learned English by volunteering at a French NGO.

After graduating she took a job as the IT director at Herat University in 2009 and later as the IT director for the Higher Education ministry. In 2010, Mahboob founded the Afghan Citadel Software Company (ACSC) along with two Herat University classmates and an investment of $20,000. Her goal was to create jobs(especially for women) in the technology fields. The company now employs more than 20 programmers, half of them being women.

She has inspired me a great deal, so when I had the chance to meet her I was thrilled. I currently reside in Guatemala and for some time now I have been working with youth and trying to encourage them to enter into the technology fields. 

As we were talking I asked her, how she was able to transfer the vision of technology to people that were not as versed in it. How was she able to explain how it could transform their lives?

She answered with a story. She explained that many of the girls that she had worked with had been lead to believe that women only had one role, in the home. When the Taliban came to power many homes had been ransacked and had their books and television burned. Roya went on to explain that technology was a way for them to progress in life and provide for themselves and their families. It was a way to empower themselves in a post-regressive society. 

Roya has been empowering women in Afghanistan and inspiring millions around the world. It was a great honor to meet her and I hope it won’t be the last time. I hope that we can work together in the future in some way. I’m very grateful there are people in the world that make a difference. Roya is definitely one of those people.

Jacob Billings
PhD Candidate - Complex Systems

I am a software engineer, linguist, and researcher of Complex Systems. I hold a bachelor's degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Utah, a Master’s degree in linguistics from Francisco Marroquín University in Guatemala City, and I am a doctoral candidate in Complex Systems at the Polytechnic University in Madrid, Spain.

Software Development: I bring over 20 years of experience in developing software for multiple clients in various environments. I have a solid knowledge of PHP, Javascript, MySQL, NoSQL, Python, and Java.

Over my career, I have had the opportunity to work on projects for some of the most recognized brands on the planet. Brands like Marriott Hotels, Microsoft, Ashland Chemical, Capital One Credit Cards, Cadbury Schweppes, GE and more. This has given me an in-depth understanding of my client's challenges as they grow. I know how to get a company from startup to maturity with technology. My specialties are in E-commerce(specifically Magento), process automation, and security.