The Business Year

Maha Al-Mansouri CEO, Mada Center

QATAR - Telecoms & IT

Maha Al-Mansouri

CEO, Mada Center

Bio

Maha Al-Mansouri has been CEO of Mada Center since 2015. Her strategic successful leadership led Qatar to rank first worldwide in the Digital Accessibility Rights Evaluation Index in 2020 on an international level. On a national level, she led a key program in education, culture, and innovation that improved the echo system of ICT accessibility for people with disabilities and the elderly. She is a member of the National committee for Women, Elderly, and People with Disabilities and the chair of the GREAT conference.

Qatar came in first worldwide on the Digital Accessibility Rights Evaluation Index in 2020 as a result of the hard work of the Mada Center.
What is your aim as an organization and which initiatives do you pursue to implement this goal in society?

Mada is a non-profit organization established in 2010. Its main goal is to connect persons with disabilities with technology and the world of information surrounding it to implement the rights of PWDs to access information. We consider ourselves a strategic enabler for other sectors to enhance the ICT accessibility ecosystem of persons with disabilities using Innovation and advanced technology. We started out solely as an assistive technology service provider, but later shifted into a strategic enabling model, which has proven to be much more effective. Today, technology is part of a wholly different domain that persons with disabilities are in. For example, in education, employment, and community, technology is part of the services, and we thrive to make services inclusive which is the ultimate goal. We are not looking at current technology alone, but also running Mada innovation program to ensure that the Arabic language is always an option for users, respecting our first language.

How does the center work to achieve an inclusive education and community?

We have our strategic partners from different sectors which are the organizations and entities that support persons with disabilities. We support them to provide inclusive services and inclusive programs. The private sector is supporting us in this mission. We have numerous ICT industry partners in our Mada Lab with whom we collaborate to make technology available and localized in Qatar and the region. We are effectively the medium between the private sector and end users and are trying to connect the dots.

At the national level, Mada Center has attained a digital accessibility rate of 90% among government websites. What does this say about the national advancement of IT platforms?

One of our program’s commitments to persons with disabilities is making the platform accessible to them. You need accessible technology and platforms and to build capability within the community for the ecosystem to mature. One of the programs involves accrediting websites and various digital platforms in the country. Another project concerns the digital government, which last year achieved a score of 90%. What we did in Mada was to create an internal tool, called Mada Accessibility Monitor Tool, available online to anyone. It checks the accessibility of a website instantly. This is the way we support organizations to work on their platform. And at the same time, we run programs to build capability among their own IT teams and developers so they can follow international Accessibility standards and ultimately receive a digital stamp from Mada on their website to prove the accessibility of their website. By doing this, we create trust between people with disabilities and service providers, and when they see the accreditation stamp, they feel a sense of participation. Once the process of reviewing the accessibility of the website starts, a grey stamp will be showing to acknowledge the commitment from the entity to accessibility. It will turn into green stamp once the website is fully accessible.

The Mada Innovation Program encourages innovators to create Arabic solutions for persons of disability and the elderly. In which way is this an awareness building mechanism?

Anyone who has interest, from young innovators to 99-year-olds, are welcome to participate in this program. We have a dedicated track for accessibility, and have sponsored an award, the Mada Innovation Award for innovators in Qatar. We have also joined forces with multiple organizations. We signed MoUs with all the occupational centers in Qatar and the GCC to support or seed-fund some of the projects that are focused on accessibility solutions in Arabic. In addition, we have a third track, which is grants for existing businesses. We are attracting companies to localize or find solutions for the challenges faced by those with disabilities published in our website. It is not only about financial support, but also about supporting the ecosystem to champion further innovation.

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