YouthSpark Star

Basem Helmy

Basem organized a TEDx event in Egypt so that young people could share their ideas about technology after the revolution.

Building a Future in Egypt

During the uprising in Egypt, Basem Helmy joined millions of people in calling for change and he used his computer skills to share pictures and information with other people near and far. “I was able to help document the revolution for the world,” said Basem. “My technology experience helped me and my community.”

Basem’s interest in computer technology was sparked by something seemingly unrelated: Hollywood. Watching action films as a boy, he was struck by a movie about a hacker breaking into a computer system. The film sparked his interest in computer security. He read as much information as he could about automatic programs and scripts, and phishing. At this young age, he made a decision: “I decided that I needed to study computer engineering and learn how the systems run so I could prevent such attacks,” said Basem, now 24.

It wouldn't be an easy decision to implement. He grew up in Tanta, about 55 miles north of Cairo in Egypt, with his mother and siblings. His father died when Basem was just 10. His father was a doctor and had his own practice so the family expected Basem would follow in his father’s footsteps and enter the medical field. When he announced that he wanted to be a computer engineer, his family was opposed. Against their wishes, he enrolled at Tanta University, majoring in computer engineering.

24-year-old Egyptian and Microsoft Student Partner Basem Helmy is passionate about computer security and using technology for good.

Basem Helmy, 24, is passionate about computer security and using technology for good.

“I want to solve problems,” Basem explained. “I want to think outside the box.”

Basem found out about the Microsoft Student Partners (MSP) program at Tanta University. MSP provides training to university students around the world in the latest advances in technology from Microsoft and helps them share their newly gained knowledge with other students. Basem applied, and he was accepted to represent his school in the program during his third year at the university.

“It was an indescribable moment when I was accepted,” Basem said. “The first day of Microsoft Student Partners, I walked to the front of the building and remembered the first time I ever saw that logo, and dreamed of working there. It was proof for me that I can reach my goals with hard work.”

Young people share personal stories of their experiences during the Arab uprisings
                                        at the YouthSpark Live conference in Cairo. A goal of the event was to discuss
                                        the role technology played in the protests.

Young people share personal stories of their experiences during the Arab uprisings at the YouthSpark Live conference in Cairo. A goal of the event was to discuss the role technology played in the protests.

During that time, Basem attended a session about Microsoft’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, led by Ghada Khalifa, Citizenship manager of Microsoft Egypt. Inspired by that experience, he joined TechHope, a YouthSpark program to engage MSPs in volunteering for community initiatives and activities focused on information technology. At TechHope, Basem worked on information security and Internet safety and coordinated sessions for students on those topics.

Partway through university, Basem faced a health issue and required serious medical attention. Still, Khalifa said, he maintained a strong focus on his work as well as on his studies. He continues to pursue national projects on Internet safety and creating Arabic educational materials for youth and children.

“It is not common that you meet a person with so much determination to overcome his challenges in such a cheerful manner,” Khalifa said. Basem’s dogged pursuit of knowledge in the technology field and multiple various experiences with Microsoft have borne fruit: he now works in Egypt as an information security engineer.

Participants enjoying TEDxTanta, a gathering of young people to share ideas on how to build Egypt’s future.

Participants gather at the YouthSpark Live event in Egypt to share stories and learn about social entrepreneurism.

After attending last year’s YouthSpark Live event in Egypt, at which youth shared their experiences in the Arab uprisings and learned about social entrepreneurism, Basem decided to establish TEDx Tanta. With help from Microsoft, he organized the first TEDx event at his school. Called Unveiling Hidden Potential, the event took place just a few months after the revolution in Egypt that began in January 2011, and the major changes in the country were a principal focus. Three hundred young people attended shared ideas on how technology could be used to build the new Egypt, and how citizenship initiatives of major companies could be part of that effort.

“We shared ideas about the next step in developing our country,” Basem said. The event encompassed what he wanted to achieve as a boy: securing safety for the world through technology. “It was a start for a new beginning.”

More YouthSpark Stars
More YouthSpark Stars
Domineisha’s Story

Domineisha’s Story

Crowd funding helped this South Central LA youth get one step closer to realizing her dreams.

Team Quad Squad

Team Quad Squad

These four Ukrainian computer science students won the Image Cup with their invention: gloves that turn sign language into spoken word.

Maya’s Story

Maya’s Story

This 14-year-old Canadian is an avid researcher who is passionate about science and has already developed a prototype for an antibiotic.