MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRIES SENT TWO ALL-FEMALE TEAMS TO MICROSOFT’S IMAGINE CUP THIS YEAR. THAT’S NOT AS SURPRISING AS IT SOUNDS.
Asya AlJabri’s first steps toward app building started with dyslexia: not her own, but her 9-year-old cousin’s. AlJabri was trying to teach him the alphabet, but he wasn’t learning, and she kept scolding him for not paying attention. “I won’t forget what he said,” recalls the 22-year-old computer science student from Muscat, Oman. He really was trying, her cousin pleaded. He just couldn’t understand why everything felt so hard to grasp. His speech moved her to tears—and to action. She took her cousin to get tested for dyslexia and then started thinking about how she herself could help.
THE GULF STATES ARE “THE ONLY PLACE IN THE WORLD I KNOW OF WHERE WOMEN OUTPERFORM MEN” IN SCIENCE AND TECH, SAYS COLEMAN, AUTHOR OF AN UPCOMING BOOK ON THE MIDDLE EAST.
AlJabri rounded up two of her fellow students and together they created an app called ReadX, which helps dyslexic children learn and lets parents keep track of their progress. The app was good enough to win a national Imagine Cup, a Microsoft-sponsored student competition; that earned AlJabri and her friends—Marwa AlHabsi and Safa Almukhaini, both 22—a spot representing Oman in the international Imagine Cup, July 8 to July 11 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
BY: GAYLE TZEMACH LEMMON