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May 28, 2018

Meet Charbel, a software engineer bridging the gender digital divide in Lebanon

By Dr. Nayla Fahed Zreik

Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT) is a youth-led movement of social innovators who have the tools, knowledge, and networks to create opportunities and transform their communities.

An EQUALS partner in the ‘Access Coalition‘, which aims to ensure that women and girls have full access to digital technologies, DOT works with youth, the private sector, governments, and community-based organizations in 25 countries.

Born for the job

Originally a software engineer in a male-dominated environment, Charbel Trad started out his career in the telecom and mobile development industry before moving to a venture capital firm, getting knee deep in the startup ecosystem. He eventually joined DOT Lebanon in 2017 to manage a platform called Building Opportunities Today (BOT) – the region’s first socially responsible digital outsourcing platform.

To fight the high rate of unemployment amongst youths in Lebanon, BOT creates income-generating opportunities for both migrant and local youth from marginalized and vulnerable communities throughout the region. BOT is supported by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

BOT’s initial market study has shown that a high number of private companies and public organizations need digital services that require considerable manpower. BOT connects unemployed youth to opportunities in the labor market, by assessing companies’ digital needs and putting them in contact with youth trained in digital skills by DOT Lebanon’s development programs. The startup therefore offers a labor outsourcing solution for companies and relieves them of operational and Human Resources management hassles.

“When we met Charbel, he seemed to be born for the job,” said Marianne Bitar Karam, Country Director of DOT Lebanon. “[He is ] a true believer in the important role youth can play in the digital economy, in particular girls and women… and the importance of work opportunities that can transform lives.”

Giving girls opportunities in the digital economy

When BOT launched its pilot operation in October, Charbel was adamant about making girls a big part of the project. “We are all responsible for raising awareness about the importance of both boys and girls participating in the digital economy. It is the future and the key to a sustainable economy.” Charbel said.

Today, more than 70% of the young people involved in the program are girls who live in remote areas, with very limited access to digital opportunities. “Through our model, girls and women can maintain a balanced life by working remotely from their region or home.” Charbel explained. “For example, earlier this year BOT was able to successfully employ 6 young women in Akkar, located in North of Lebanon, who were able to generate more than $2,000 in just 6 weeks! Overall the pilot phase of the project has shown big promises and achieved an unimaginable success generating more than $40K for the youth involved.”

DOT Lebanon’s digital skills training program evolves based on the needs of the market. “We continue training the youth on new skills related to the market, so they can provide more services and become independent freelancers or start their own enterprise,” said Charbel, who admitted that he had been afraid in the beginning that services provided by the youth would not be of market value. However, “the will of the youth, especially the girls, to succeed exceeded our expectations and gave us the drive to do more and try our best to answer the increasing demand from the youth to jobs by giving them more opportunities.”

 Watch the video above to see Charbel’s interview about being a young man who is bridging the gender digital divide in Lebanon.

Charbel was interviewed by Batoul Husseini, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at SAP MENA as a part of DOT’s ongoing digital divide series where private sector influencers interview daring young social innovators.

About Charbel Trad

Charbel is a #DOTYouth social innovator and co-founder of Instaconsult, a mobile consultancy platform that helps people get on-demand information from top specialists, consultants, influencers, clinics and businesses. He holds a Masters in Computer Software Engineering from Antonine University. As the project manager for BOT, a social procurement platform, he is at the forefront of creating a youth-led economy in Lebanon.

 About Batoul Husseini

Based in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Batoul is Head of Government Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at SAP, where she is responsible for the strategic development of SAP’s government relations activities, including building relationships with local and federal institutions and entities. Driving CSR initiatives that promote social entrepreneurship and youth empowerment, Batoul has initiated the Refugee Code Week, a collaborative project between SAP and United Nations Higher Commission on Refugees, which empowers youth from refugee communities with coding skills across the MENA region.

Dr Nayla Fahed is Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Lebanese Alternative Learning and 2017 Winner of the EQUALS in Tech Awards in the Access Category.

 

Nominate yourself and others for the 2018 EQUALS in Tech Awards here!

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Meet Charbel, a software engineer bridging the gender digital divide in Lebanon

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