Read about Roberta Maio

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Roberta Maio
Digital Rights and Inclusion Officer
Global Solutions Division Programme Development Branch, United Nations Human Settlements Programme


What brought you to a career in technology at the United Nations?

I have been working in the field since the beginning of my career, which included positions at European institutions and in the private sector. I was convinced to apply my skills to the work the UN does for a very simple reason: the UN serves countries and people most in need, while private business choices are driven by financial interests. I wanted to use all the competencies I had gained to serve those who are left behind in countries where means and resources are scarce and, consequently, suffer from unequal development and opportunities.


What has been your favorite technology project or initiative at the United Nations and why? What was your contribution?

While working at UNDP, I participated in a capacity-building initiative that targeted senior public officials in the Arab states. In collaboration with partners, UNDP organized thematic training and seminars on digitalization opportunities in the public sector, digitalization of services, platform interoperability, and capacitation. The project opened further opportunities later, as most of those countries requested UNDP support in guiding them towards their digital transformation. Capacity building is a key component of the UN's work, and in the digital space, it is of utmost importance to change traditional ways of working and mindsets. This begins with changing leaders' views on digitalization and creating the political will to ensure the process can be successful. I found this project particularly important because digitalization is very scattered in the Arab region, with some countries, mostly affected by conflicts or other challenges, cannot harness the benefits of technology. The impact was even greater as the project was carried out during COVID-19.


What advice would you give women interested in pursuing a field in technology?

While 50% of the world population is online, the remaining is disconnected. The values are even lower when we look at the gender digital divide and the consequences of having low percentages of women benefiting from learning, jobs and connections in cyberspace. Additionally, women are one of the vulnerable categories in cyberspace and advocating for data privacy and sensible standards to protect women online as offline is needed. Being women, we can completely understand the implications of such risks hence empowering us to change the way digitalization happens and make it more equal, fair and women-sensitive. We need more women working in this field who understand technologies and support advocating for women's rights to access and benefit from the digital economy, learning and so on. Join us!