Meet SAP’s Batoul Husseini, founder of Digital Skills for Today, providing Refugees with The Gift of Code

June 10, 2020

“A refugee is someone who survived and who can create the future” – Amela Koluder

Did you know that more than half of the world’s 25.9 million refugees are under the age of 18? On World Refugee Day, June 20, SAP honours the courage, strength and determination of those who have been forced to flee their homes under the threat of persecution, conflict and violence by empowering youth with coding skills inside Refugee Communities across the MENA region.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), education and work in the Middle East and North Africa region will determine the livelihoods of over 300 million people and drive growth and development for generations to come. However, the current reality in the job market is economically unsustainable.

Batoul Husseini, the Head of Government Affairs UAE: Corporate Social Responsibility MENA at SAP. She is both ambitious and innovative, a digital inclusion trailblazer. Based in MENA, she is responsible for the strategic development of SAP’s government relations activities, promoting technological transformation in the public sector and the positive role played by digital technologies in addressing economic and societal challenges around the world.

Batoul launched Refugee Code Week at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. Today it is known as Digital Skills for Today (DST), a corporate social responsibility (CSR) collaboration between SAP, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Injaz Al Arab, RBK, and Re:Coded. While providing digital skills and training for refugees and youths, DST also strives to train local nationals to meet the current market demand for skilled professionals in information and communications technology, the fastest growing sector of the economy.

“The initiative took-off and during my visits to host coding workshops at different refugee camps I saw how little things can be everything, and beauty can be created from nothing. People used art to normalize the desert-like environment, they painted nature and water scenes on camp fences and discarded bottles were repurposed as flowerpots. Nothing was taken for granted,” she says.

DST addresses several critical regional challenges, including youth unemployment, inadequate workforce readiness, and a lack of digital skills training. Among other youth, it provides training as they rebuild their lives with courage and perseverance.

“Especially in and around conflict zones, Middle East and North Africa, youth often face limited employment prospects and an inadequate or non-existent education system,” explains Batoul, “the initiative directly improves quality of life for beneficiaries by providing in-demand skills for the 21st-century job market. Furthermore, the initiative has valuable social outcomes, decreasing unemployment rates in marginalized populations, and providing long-term opportunities for digital innovation and entrepreneurship.”

The program is also about helping young people, including refugees, leapfrog their situation through intensive code training that leads to job placement. This is why SAP partnered with ReBootKamp (RBK) and re:Coded to turn literacy into expertise and expertise into employment.

“The initiative has introduced coding to over 26,000 young refugees and nationals across 14 countries since it was launched in 2016. More than 120 graduates have found gainful employment in Jordan, Turkey and Iraq,” adds Batoul. “Bringing about new skills and expertise in conflict-affected areas is essential to the development and reconstruction of those regions. We aim to reveal the many potential coding heroes that only lack the opportunity to improve their lives and build their own future. Our hands-on learning material and training session allow quick insertion into the workforce, this shaping an entire generation of tech-savvy professionals.”

Passionate about communications and language, she speaks Arabic, English and Dutch, Batoul has a Masters Degree in International Business and holds various qualifications in Economics, Business BA administration and Computer Information Systems.

Her work with refugees has only cemented her desire to utilize digital platforms to make a difference. In recognition of her goal to increase ICT awareness locally and across the globe, Batoul was named the World Summit Awards (WSA) Special Ambassador to Asia and she works closely with WSA to achieve its mission: promoting the world’s best e-content and innovative ICT applications, and ultimately, contributing to a true knowledge society.

“Today, I have a deep appreciation that everything I have is a privilege and I could lose it through no fault of my own… Growing up in Syria, I learned the importance of standing up for others and felt compelled to make a bigger impact in this regard. SAP provided me with this opportunity.