Roya Mahboob

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Roya Mahboob
رویا محبوب
Roya Mahboob in July 2012
Alma materHerat University
Known forFounder and CEO of Afghan Citadel Software Company

Roya Mahboob (Dari: رویا محبوب) is an Afghan businesswoman and entrepreneur.[1] She founded and serves as CEO of the Afghan Citadel Software Company, a full-service software development company based in Herat, Afghanistan.[2] She has received attention for being among the first IT female CEOs in Afghanistan,[3] where it is still relatively rare for women to work outside the home.[1][4][5] On 18 April 2013, Roya Mahboob was named to TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2013 for her work in building internet classrooms in high schools in Afghanistan and for Women's Annex, a multilingual blog and video site hosted by Film Annex. This was the 10th anniversary of the TIME special edition. The Women's Annex platform give the women of Afghanistan and Central Asia a platform to tell their stories to the world. The TIME magazine introduction to Roya Mahboob was written by Sheryl Sandberg who is the chief operating officer of Facebook and the author of "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead".[6][7] U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Roya Mahboob and other Afghan women entrepreneurs at the International Center for Women's Economic Development at the American University of Afghanistan.[8] She is also known for her work with online film distribution platform and Web Television Network Film Annex on the Afghan Development Project.[9] She is a current advisor at the Forbes School of Business & Technology.[10]


Mahboob was born in Herat, Afghanistan, but left the country with her family in the wake of the Soviet invasion to live in neighboring Pakistan followed by Iran.[11][12] She returned to Afghanistan in 2003 and learned English by volunteering at a French NGO specializing in media.[4] She enrolled in information and communications technology courses offered for women by the United Nations Development Programme later that year, and enrolled in a bachelor's degree of Computer Science for information and communications technology at Herat University in 2005. There she has been educated by a team from TU Berlin.[13] She also spent one semester at the TU Berlin within a scope of a training for computer science lecturers. After her graduation in 2009, Mahboob has worked as IT-Director at the Herat University, later as project coordinator at the IT-Department of the Ministry of Higher Education, where she still worked in close collaboration with the Center for international and intercultural Communication of the TU Berlin.[14][15] in May 2011. She was included in an inaugural class of seven Afghan entrepreneurs as part of the Herat Information Technology Program, an offshoot of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan, which was founded by Paul Brinkley, the former deputy undersecretary of defense, in 2010.[1]


Mahboob founded the Afghan Citadel Software Company (ACSC) in 2010 along with two Herat University classmates and an investment of $20,000.[1] The aim was to create jobs for recent university graduates—especially women—in Afghanistan's growing tech market.[16] The company employs at least 20 programmers, more than half of which are women.[16]

ACSC develops software according to specific requirements that are defined by clients, which are government ministries, universities, and international organizations in Afghanistan.[16] It also creates proprietary stand-alone or integrated applications for computers and mobile phones, based on market needs and identified opportunities. Past projects include helping a Herat hospital to shift from paper to digital records[1] as well as helping to bring reliable internet to Herat University as part of NATO's Silk Afghanistan project.[4][17]

In 2012, Citadel of New York was founded to develop and promote Examer, an Interactive and Educational Social Networking platform with a Micro Scholarship Payment System, which Mahboob helped to develop.[18] Another project resulting from this partnership, Women's Annex, also provides financing for video content on social media and gives Afghan women a chance to begin careers as filmmakers.[19] Citadel of New York acquired a ten percent equity position in Afghanistan's Esteqlal Football Club in October 2012.[20]

In 2014, Mahboob joined the advisory board of the international think tank Global Thinkers Forum.[21]

She founded the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, also known as the Afghan Dreamers.[22][23]


Mahboob has received recognition for being a female CEO in a country where women largely do not work outside the home. She has received threats for starting and running a business, staffing her company primarily with women, doing business with foreigners, even driving a car.[4][24] Roya's reaction to this has been, "You have to show everybody that men and women are equal. Women can do something if you allow them. Give them opportunity and they can prove themselves".[1]

Mahboob has also partnered with Film Annex, an online film distribution platform and Web Television Network, to launch the Afghan Development Project in 2012. The project aims to show the world the new face of Afghanistan by broadcasting current event videos, interviews, and news clips as well as archival material directly from Afghan Youth Development.[25] The partnership between Rulli and Mahboob began after a 2011 NATO promotional video] and decided to get involved in the restructuring of Afghanistan. Mahboob and Film Annex are working to build internet classrooms in Afghan schools to connect children to the world and dissuade them from joining the Taliban.[1][9][26]

On 18 November 2013, Senator John Kerry wrote an essay for Politico, detailing his experience meeting Roya Mahboob, CEO of the software development firm Citadel as well as the current changes being led by Afghan women in a variety of social areas. Kerry's essay discusses how Afghani women, and Roya Mahboob in particular, are changing not only Afghanistan but also the global community. Senator Kerry details specifically how Mahboob's contributions to Afghani society and the global community are having far reaching impacts. While on the global landscape, Afghanistan still has much work to do, Senator Kerry indicates Mahboob's success as one key female figure is a great step toward bringing about lasting peace and prosperity. "Afghan women aren't stopping. They’re marching forward, and we all need to march with them."[27]

The essay was written as part of a series, and is a collaboration between Politico, Google & the Tory Burch Foundation, titled Women Rule.[28]

Award and honors[edit]

  • 2013: One of Time‍ 's "100 Most Influential People in the World"[29]
  • 2013: Civic Innovator "National Democracy Institute"[30]
  • 2014: The Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards[31]
  • 2015: World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders 2015[32]
  • 2015: Michael Dukakis Leadership Fellow[33]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Shah, Angela (1 September 2012). "In Afghanistan, Roya Mahboob Connects Girls With Computers". Newsweek's The Daily Beast. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Roya Mahboob on Afghanistan Education and Economy". Film Annex. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  3. ^ Bezhan, Frud (12 October 2012). "TEDx Tries To Bring Digital Age To Kabul". Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d "Herat businesswoman succeeds amid strong opposition". NATO's Newsroom. 24 October 2011. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  5. ^ "Software company in Afghanistan only with women". Krone. 15 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
  6. ^ "Roya Mahboob - TIME 100: The 100 Most Influential People in the World". 18 April 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2013.
  7. ^ "Time's 100 Most Influential 2013: Afghani Entrepreneur Roya Mahboob". The Story Exchange. 29 April 2013. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Afghan Women Help Drive Resurgent Economy".
  9. ^ a b "Building schools in Afghanistan - Afghan Development Project". Film Annex. Film Annex. Archived from the original on 26 January 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  10. ^ "Forbes School of Business & Technology Board of Advisors | Ashford University". Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  11. ^ ""If I teach them, no one can stop them": Roya Mahboob is fighting to educate the girls of Afghanistan". 8 March 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Connecting to modernity". NATO's Newsroom. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  13. ^ Mahr, Bernd; Peroz, Nazir, eds. (2006). Establishing Academic Structures in Computer Science at Herat University. Frankfurt: IKO Verlag.
  14. ^ "Citadel of New York, LLC and Roya Mahboob". Film Annex Capital Partners. Film Annex Capital Partners. Archived from the original on 22 September 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  15. ^ "Roya Mahboob". LinkedIn. LinkedIn. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  16. ^ a b c Bezhan, Frud. "In Male-Dominated World, Afghan Businesswoman Breaks Boundaries, Taboos". Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  17. ^ "Internet access is changing teaching methods in Afghanistan". NATO's News. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  18. ^ "Examer Software by Citadel of New York". Film Annex Capital Partners. Film Annex Capital Partners. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2012.
  19. ^ "Op-Ed: Billions of Women on This Planet Have Stories to Tell—So Listen Up". Take Part. Archived from the original on 7 February 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  20. ^ "Film Annex Acquires Equity Position in Afghanistan's Esteqlal Football Club". Film Annex Blog. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  21. ^ "Mentors". Global Thinkers Forum. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  22. ^ Gerardi, Kellie (2020). Not Necessarily Rocket Science: A Beginner's Guide to Life in the Space Age. Mango Media Inc. ISBN 978-1-64250-411-8.
  23. ^ Mahboob, Roya (2020). "Women, girls and STEM". In Murthy, Padmini; Ansehl, Amy (eds.). Technology and Global Public Health. Switzerland: Springer. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-3-030-46354-0.
  24. ^ Lemmon, Gayle Tzemach (15 October 2012). "In The Heart of Afghanistan, Entrepreneurs Innovate For Peace". Fast Company. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  25. ^ "Biography". Film Annex. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  26. ^ "Working to change perception of women in Afghanistan". Fox News. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  27. ^ Kerry, John F. "Afghan women on the march". POLITICO. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  28. ^ "Women Rule: Afghan Women on the March". Politico. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  29. ^ Sandberg, Sheryl (18 April 2013). "Roya Mahboob: The World's 100 Most Influential People". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  30. ^ Khan, Arif (20 February 2019). "SingularityNET Partners with Roya Mahboob's Digital Citizen Fund". Medium. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  31. ^ "Event | Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards 2014 - NYU Stern". Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  32. ^ "Meet the 2015 class of Young Global Leaders". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  33. ^ Admin (18 September 2017). "ROYA MAHBOOB". Michael Dukakis Institute for Leadership and Innovation (MDI). Retrieved 24 November 2020.