Switch: Connecting Lives Through Technology

Danielle Sharaf

You’re made of the same stuff I am. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I can’t do this.

Danielle Sharaf CEO, Switch, Pakistan; 2020 WE Empower Awardee, Greater MENA

When it comes to staying connected, Danielle Sharaf dedicates herself to ensuring that people receive the information they need to stay safe, educate themselves, and find work. Sharaf’s “Switch” keeps users up-to-date with SMS and audio alerts across Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe regarding critical healthcare services, gender equality, career services, and essential announcements. WE Empower intern, Sidney McKee, details how Switch benefits local communities and paves the way for a more interconnected and equitable tomorrow.

Sharaf’s organization, Switch, connects users to the fundamental benefits of society that are often out of reach for regions with no internet access. As detailed by Sharaf, “Information is power, and one of the reasons why inequality exists is because people don’t even have the information to make smarter and better life choices. Today we have about 17 million Pakistanis who use our various services.” Through extensive outreach and support, Sharaf is fostering a community of care where people are more interconnected to essential services and employment opportunities.

Equitable Healthcare

Switch provides a revolutionary and much-needed update to how medical alerts and communications take place in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe. Through innovative design and ideas, Sharaf explains, “We run a health service and especially now with the app that we are doing, Zoya Healthcare”. With goals “to ensure that no girl loses her life due to a lack of healthcare knowledge or access to medical professionals”, Sharaf champions SDG 3 Good Health and Well-Being.

Fostering Education

Equal and consistent access to education is an issue that Sharaf strives to mitigate with Switch. With updates and messaging available, users can prepare for academic rigors as well as enhance crucial literacy skills that prepare users for elevated career opportunities. As Sharaf highlighted, “It’s a text and audio based service through which users can learn English, do exam prep for various education levels, and get career counseling”. With an encompassing strategy, Switch excels in providing users with effective learning resources and furthers SDG 4 Quality Education.

Promoting Job Growth

With 14% of Switch users finding employment from the program, this platform provides opportunities for disadvantaged communities to find work and support their families. The offered career portals connect employers with those looking for work and close the unemployment gap. Sharaf’s Switch provides communication tools for communities to stay healthy, connected, educated, and employed. Sharaf clarified, “We run a text-based portal for job seekers where they can subscribe to the service, create a short profile with us over SMS, and we match them to job vacancies around the country”. This service shows how important Switch is in illuminating job opportunities to the public and supporting SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Sharaf strives to motivate women worldwide to become change-makers in their communities. “Don’t fall into the trap of self-victimization. If a man has to work 100% you will have to work 200% to get to where that man is… don’t use it as a crutch, use it as a power”.