Pakistani digital entrepreneurs create social value through digital initiatives
This International Youth Day, the world celebrates young people’s contributions to inclusion, social justice and peace – and two digital innovators from Pakistan Haroon Yasin and Fatima Rizwan are doing more than their share. Haroon and Fatima are using digital technology to enable and empower the underserved segments of the society.
The two entrepreneurs were part of Telenor Youth Forum (TYF), Telenor Group’s initiative in collaboration with Nobel Peace Center, which provides a platform for social intervention through digital innovation. They are striving to makes this society a better place to live and their efforts warrant due recognition.
Haroon Yasin, 25, Pakistan
Founder of Project Orenda
Growing up in Pakistan, Haroon attended private schools and was on the track for a degree in Engineering. Although fortunate enough to have a good education, he didn’t think the national system was properly serving Pakistan’s millions of youth. So he quit his engineering program three months into college and went on to pursue a new passion – making his country’s education system more engaging and inclusive.
Visiting slums and poorer areas in Pakistan, Haroon always noticed that while there were shortages of schools, most families owned mobile phones. Then he had an idea. This was the birth of Orenda, an organization that designs virtual curricula, including video and game-based translations of government curricula, and monitors its performance using mobile internet.
After piloting with 1,300 students over the past two years, participating schools have seen substantial improvements in performance and reductions in drop-out rates. His ambitions for Orenda are as strong as ever, and his vision for the next 2-5 years is it becoming truly national by serving children all over Pakistan.
Pakistan’s education system is at capacity, Haroon says, and he sees mobile phones and internet as perfect tools to alleviate this. For Haroon, ensuring youth access to education is essential. He says that peace is disturbed when people don’t have their basic needs met. Begin to meet their basic needs, and you build peace.
Fatima Rizwan, 27, Pakistan
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, TechJuice
Technology has been a constant source of excitement and passion for Fatima, who was hooked from the moment she first saw her father using a computer. Today she’s still blown away by the applications and opportunities that technology presents us all. A computer science major, she went on to become the first woman in her extended family to own a business.
She founded TechJuice, which is now Pakistan’s leading media platform for startups and entrepreneurs. TechJuice’s content reaches over 10 million people per month – in Pakistan alone, and is now playing a big role in the country’s tech scene. Fatima pitched the platform at Telenor Youth Forum 2015, from which her learnings have helped her grow TechJuice’s revenue, readership and reach.
Though Fatima admits that she eats, sleeps and drinks TechJuice, she’s also an advocate for breaking down barriers of any kind and for giving people a voice. Though technology is fast-paced, lucrative and exciting, Fatima also sees it as a tool that can add to the peace process across the world, when leveraged properly. Technology levels the playing field for all, regardless of their races, genders, nationalities or religions, she says, and access to it can help the voiceless be heard.