Heba Ramzy: Keeping Culture and History Alive
During the 1990s, as Heba Ramzy learned how new technologies could transform education and transmit a country's cultural heritage, she became determined to realize technology's benefits for young people in her part of the world. For more than a decade, she has worked toward that goal, making an impact in her native Egypt, as well as elsewhere in North Africa and throughout the Middle East.
As director of the kids and youth programs for RITSEC (Regional Information Technology and Software Engineering Center), an information-technology nonprofit agency hosted by the Egyptian government for the Arab Region, Ramzy developed and launched Little Horus, the first Web site designed to introduce an international audience of children to Egyptian history and culture. In the year after its 1997 launch in English, French, and Arabic, the site was acclaimed by numerous international education organizations and attracted nearly 2.5 million visitors.
Propelled by these initial experiences with educational technology at RITSEC, Ramzy worked in ever widening circles across her country and continent. "With every new challenge, more determination for success would sprout," she writes in an email. "Relentlessly focused" is the way Ramzy describes her style.
Consulting with Egypt's Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Ramzy cofounded the country's 21st Century Kids Clubs, which provides community-based technology access and software training for children. At her next post, she established Internet learning centers at schools in Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Senegal. She introduced ThinkQuest in Africa and was one of the founders of SchoolNet Africa, a portal and networking initiative involving more than thirty countries.
Ramzy has relocated to the United States to work as part of Microsoft's Unlimited Potential group, where she develops partnerships with government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and other entities to support education and economic development in the Middle East and North Africa. And though the shift from the nonprofit world to a for-profit corporate environment has been challenging, Ramzy writes that its motivational to manage "a tremendously wide range of people divided by boundaries of culture and geography," yet united in their hope for a better future.
Mary Kadera, a former teacher, is a freelance writer who lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and volunteers with local environmental organizations.
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