Anna Borgström – Alumnus of the Year 2021
“I am really surprised because I have never seen myself as a person who would receive such a nice award. I'm honoured,” she said, when we reached her between business trips and meetings for an interview.
Her connection to Borås and the university began back when she was set to start high school. She moved from Örebro to attend a special sports high school with a focus on football; the programme was only available in Borås. She played for Öxabäck and other local teams. After high school, she got a job at the university at the then Department of IT and Data where she worked with administration. Pursuing her own studies was a natural next step, and she applied to the then computer economics educational programme.
IT technology in the service of the good
Her journey continued on to a job as a system developer at Ericsson.
“Through my employment at Ericsson, I had the opportunity to discover the world. For a few years, I worked on six-month contracts in different countries. I learned an incredible amount. I got to see how IT and IT technology can contribute to the well-being of humanity and that was when my interest in using IT technology for something good was awakened.”
But after a few years, she felt it was time to move back home. She got a job with emergency services in Gothenburg as a project manager for their IT organisation and led the "Rakel project," the communications technology that would connect all emergency services organisations in Sweden. Then it was time to move on again.
“I missed the commercial side, so after a couple of years with emergency services, I applied to an IT consulting company that worked with an outsourced service desk for Volvo Cars, among others.”
Saw a real difference
But one day, in 2009, she saw that the company NetClean Technologies was looking for sales people and she applied.
“The reason for this was to have the opportunity to work closely with customers and to work with technology that is beneficial to society. I could see that this company really made a difference.
“It develops software that sends an alert when an employee uses the company's computer to consume child sexual abuse material. The software detects images and videos that are classified by the police as abusive material and are thus illegal. The company collaborates with police authorities around the world and the images and films that the police classify as illegal receive a digital fingerprint that the software can detect.
“The companies that use the software can then follow their own internal processes and take action accordingly. We know from a survey we did in 2018 that 1 in 500 employees use their company computer to consume sexually abuse material, so there is an underestimated risk here,” she said.
“A survey we did this year, where we interviewed more than 1,000 senior IT people from five countries, showed that 64 percent had experience of there being child sexual abuse material in the company's IT environment, and more than half of them have repeatedly found abuse material. If you do not have technology that detects these images and films, then there is a risk that employees, primarily in IT, can be exposed to the material, which can be traumatic.
“Companies can also make a significant difference by reporting such incidents to the police and enabling the police to investigate the crime. In those cases, the police often find new images that are previously unknown to the police, and since there is a connection between viewing sexual abuse material and committing one’s own abuse of children, the companies that have our software can also help save children from abuse,” she said.
Time to shift things up a gear
Since 2009, she has been involved in building the company to what it is today, with 30 employees in Gothenburg and a market in Sweden and the Nordic countries. But the journey is not over yet. The next step for the company is to establish itself in the rest of Europe and the US.
“Our strategy is to scale up through technology collaborations with existing IT security platforms. We are currently collaborating with VMware, a major IT provider. Together with VMware, customers can easily install and manage our products and investigate alarms in the IT environment in a more efficient way. The large technology collaborations mean that we reach other markets in the world,” she said.
What does the industry look like?
“The entire security industry is on the rise when it comes to IT security, and we are alone in the world by doing exactly what we do, which means our partners can differentiate their offerings by collaborating with us.”
What drives you?
“Scaling up the technology, finding the scalability in our solutions, in our business model. The more we can get our technology out, the bigger difference we can make. I am passionate about the business itself and it is very fun to develop the company. I could work myself to death but see it more as a lifestyle.”
What does the University of Borås mean to you?
“The university laid the foundation for my way of thinking; without the university I would not be who I am today.”
What does it mean for you to be named Alumnus of the Year?
“This means that I carry the university's brand with me in what I do, and that I can be an inspiration to others who study at the university.”
Attention nationally and internationally
Anna Borgström and the company NetClean Technologies have been noted repeatedly. Among other things, in meetings through Queen Silvia's involvement in the Childhood Foundation. Anna has been given speaking time at the UN on several occasions; she spoke about the impact the company NetClean has and she has been interviewed in the media several times, including on TV4 Morgonsoffan.
Currently: Alumnus of the Year 2021 at the University of Borås
Works as: Since 2018, CEO of the IT company NetClean Technologies
In her spare time: Coaches, is responsible for the women's section in football in the Tölö IF association
Motivation of the jury
Anna Borgström, CEO, NetClean Technologies
“Preventing and stopping the spread of child sexual abuse material on the internet is an important task in today's digital society. This has become even more topical as the recent pandemic, and the subsequent shift remote work, has significantly increased the consumption of child sexual abuse material online.
Anna Borgström is the CEO of the company NetClean, which has developed software that detects the downloading of child sexual abuse material on company computers. For several years, Anna has worked tirelessly to stop the spread of child sexual abuse material and to protect children from online perpetrators. During her time at the company, she has established important national and international contacts. The organisation also works closely with Queen Silvia and the World Childhood Foundation.”
Text: Solveig Klug
Photo: Portrait Anna Sigge