New Report: Digital Grassroots Ambassadors Program – Cohort 6 (Community Edition)

By Muhammed Bello Buhari | November 24, 2023 

We’re excited to share the outcomes of the Digital Grassroots Ambassadors Program – Community Edition, Cohort 6, a pilot initiative that unfolded from July 31 to September 22, 2023. Led by our Programs Coordinator, Morisola Alaba, this eight-week online program marked a pioneering journey designed to equip our Ambassadors with essential skills for training peers on internet literacy, governance, and digital rights.


Under the guidance of trainers Viviane Oywer, Somtochukwu Ugwu, and Harira Abdulrahman Wakili, the pilot cohort of 39 new Ambassadors exhibited a diverse representation—17 males, 21 females, and 1 individual choosing not to disclose their gender. This inclusive makeup adds depth and perspective to the Digital Grassroots community.


The program’s cornerstone, the Internet Literacy Course, equipped trainees with essential knowledge to navigate the digital space effectively, fostering active community engagement and addressing local internet-related issues. Additionally, the mentorship phase provided eligible trainees with personalized guidance from internet governance experts, contributing to the development of emerging digital activists. This cohort’s impact is evident in the addition of 39 new Ambassadors, along with significant contributions to raising awareness about digital rights, internet governance, and related issues within their respective communities. The program has played a pivotal role in empowering communities, reducing digital inequalities, and fostering inclusive participation in internet governance.


For more details, insights, and participant perspectives, explore the full Digital Grassroots Ambassadors Program – Community Edition, Cohort 6 Report. Discover how this program empowers communities, reduces digital inequalities, and fosters inclusive participation in internet governance.


A special thanks to our dedicated trainers, mentors, and contributors to the success of Cohort 6. We anticipate continuing our journey toward fostering digital citizenship and empowerment!

Empowering Youth for Gender Equality: DIGRA at the Generation Equality Bridge-Building Workshop

By Muhammed Bello Buhari | October 16, 2023

The Generation Equality Forum (GEF) is a global gathering of activists, policymakers, and organizations working towards gender equality. This forum serves as a crucial platform for dialogue, collaboration, and action to advance the rights of women and girls worldwide. Digital Grassroots, as the sole youth representatives in the #GenerationEquality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality, was honored to participate in the GEF Bridge-Building workshop held in Kigali from July 22-24, 2023 through the representation of its Co-Founder & Global Lead, Uffa Modey.


This workshop strives to build foundational relationships and lines of communication between stakeholders to connect and nurture international and cross-movement relationship building that goes beyond GEF and supports youth in other multilateral advocacy processes. The workshop aims to recognize past challenges in the process and build effective methods of engaging youth; provide a space for healing and listening; identify links to the formal GEF process; and jump-start a path for longer-term collaboration and partnership. Here’s a glimpse into our experience and the impact of this vital event.


One of the most striking aspects of the GEF Bridge-Building workshop was its commitment to including youth voices. Digital Grassroots played an integral role as the only youth leaders in the Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality Action Coalition, representing the aspirations and concerns of young people, particularly those from underserved communities. The GEF workshop provided a unique opportunity for Digital Grassroots to connect with a diverse group of stakeholders, including representatives from Member States, philanthropy organizations, civil society, and intergenerational allies. These connections are crucial for creating a more inclusive and equitable world where youth have a seat at the table.

During the workshop, participants openly discussed past challenges that hindered the engagement of youth in gender justice initiatives. These conversations were instrumental in identifying solutions and pathways for more effective collaboration between youth and non-youth stakeholders. In addition to discussions and workshops, the workshop also focused on the emotional well-being of participants. It provided a safe space for healing, listening, and authenticity, recognizing that activism can be emotionally demanding.


One of the key objectives of the GEF workshop was to distill lessons learned for longer-term collaboration and partnership. Digital Grassroots, represented by Uffa Modey, actively prioritized the role of youth in the GEF and other multilateral processes, ensuring that the momentum generated during the workshop continues. Digital Grassroots, under the leadership of Uffa Modey, worked towards building relationships and offering linkages between different key stakeholder groups involved in the Generation Equality Action Coalitions. These connections are essential for creating a more coordinated and impactful approach to gender equality.


Digital Grassroots is committed to empowering youth through digital literacy and engagement. Our participation in the GEF Bridge-Building workshop, especially as the only youth leaders in the Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality Action Coalition, reinforced the importance of digital skills and knowledge in advancing gender justice. We believe that digital literacy is not just a tool for personal growth; it’s a catalyst for social change.


In conclusion, the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) Bridge-Building Kigali workshop was a significant milestone in the journey towards gender equality. Digital Grassroots remains dedicated to amplifying youth voices, fostering collaboration, and promoting digital literacy as a means to empower young people in the fight for gender justice. Together, we can build a more equitable world for all.


Stay tuned for more updates on our ongoing efforts to empower youth and advance gender equality through digital literacy.

Championing Internet Governance Education: Pavel Farhan’s Empowering Dialogue with DIGRA

Recently, we had a chance to sit down with Pavel, our DIGRA Ambassador based in Thailand. Pavel is a Program Officer at intERLab, AIT, Thailand. Since joining the Internet Governance community in 2019, Pavel has secured multiple fellowships, including those from APNIC48, NextGen@ICANN68, and ICANN75. A dedicated At-Large community member and APRALO, he champions ICT for development and is driven to ensure equal Internet access for minority groups. With a master’s degree in ICT from AIT, Pavel’s roles include being a NetMission Ambassador, Digital Grassroots Ambassador, and a fervent advocate for youth participation in internet governanceNavigating through a realm of digital policy and education, Pavel shed light on his journey since joining Digital Grassroots, the significance of mentorship programs, and the roadblocks yet to be overcome in youth engagement in Internet Governance. As we explore the perpetually evolving digital landscape and the role of youth in shaping it, Pavel’s insightful perspectives serve as both a compass and catalyst.

DIGRA: It is a pleasure to have you with us today, Pavel. To kick things off, would you mind sharing a bit about your current work in the field of Internet Governance?


Pavel: I am delighted to be here. My work currently revolves around key themes of promoting diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in Internet Governance. I work on strategies encouraging youth involvement in this sector, mainly focusing on developing youth-centric programs and initiatives to bring their unique perspectives and drive change in this field.


DIGRA: We often hear about your ongoing projects and initiatives but rarely get a detailed update. Could you share with us what you have been up to in the last two years since completing the DIGRA Ambassadors Program?


Pavel: Certainly. Looking back, right around the time of the program, which was November 2021, I took part in the Asia Pacific Internet Governance Academy, hosted by KISA, Korea Internet & Security Agency , and co-hosted by ICANN. It was the beginning of my journey. I was participating in this academy and the Digital Grassroots program at the same time. The Digital Grassroots program hosted many youths from the African and South American regions, whereas APIGA primarily catered to the Asia Pacific regions, with participants from East Asia, like Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and others. It was an enriching and unique experience because it allowed me to gain insights into how various regions conduct their Internet Governance programs.


DIGRA: Could you tell us more about your involvement with ICANN?


Pavel: I have been involved with ICANN since ICANN 68 in 2020 as a NextGen. In March 2022, I was privileged to be a fellow for ICANN, which gave me a deeper understanding of ICANN’s policy development processes. It went beyond my previous basic knowledge of ICANN policies and digital policies. Unfortunately, I had to attend ICANN 73 virtually due to Covid restrictions and timing issues, but I was fortunate to be a recipient of the fellowship program once more for ICANN75 and was able to attend ICANN 75 in person in Kuala Lumpur in September 2022, after travel restrictions were lifted.


DIGRA: And if we circle back a bit earlier, to the spring of 2022, you also participated in the APAC DNS forum, didn’t you?


Pavel: Yes, that is right. In May 2022, I had the opportunity to moderate a session at Malaysia’s inaugural APAC DNS forum. The session focused on “Establishing a Trusted Notifier Mechanism to Fight  DNS Abuse”. It discussed the partnership between TWNIC, the Taiwanese Network Information Center, DotAsia and .ORG in combating this common issue in ICANN. Additionally, alongside these programs, I was also doing an internship with the UN Office of Information and Communication Technology, the UN OICT, from October 2021 until April 2022. Balancing these commitments was quite a challenge, but also gave me a wide-ranging understanding of Internet Governance.


DIGRA: It is incredible to see how many things you have been doing.


Pavel: Thank you. I apologize for the overlapping recap. It just feels like telling a story to a friend, you know?


DIGRA: That’s how we want our community members to feel when they are talking to us! Could you also share your engagements that happened from autumn 2022 onward? It’s been quite an active period for you.


Pavel: Absolutely. In November of 2022, I attended the UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Ethiopia. I was a speaker for one of the sessions I attended virtually. The session was titled “Gen Z and Cyberspace: Are We Safe Online?”. I participated as one of the Civil Society speakers from the Asia Pacific side, alongside another Digital Grassroots Community Leader, Mauricia Abdol, who represented the African Civil Society. After the IGF wrapped up, my journey continued. As a NetMission Ambassador from the 2019-2020 batch, I was invited to present at one of their trainings early the following year, 2023. I spoke on diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in Internet Governance, particularly focusing on digital inclusion.


DIGRA: Sounds exciting, and you also participated in ICANN’s Universal Acceptance Day?


Pavel: Exactly, that was this March. The Myanmar Youth IGF invited me to speak at their Universal Acceptance Day event. I discussed universal acceptance and digital inclusion there, representing both NetMission and as an ICANN fellow. In recent months, I have also been working towards becoming an individual member for APRALO, and I’m proud to share that my efforts have paid off, and I am now an individual member of APRALO. The Asian, Australasian, and Pacific Islands Regional At-Large Organisation (APRALO) is one of the Regional At-Large Organisations (RALOs), which is under ICANN. I have been attending their meetings and recently represented them at the 4th ICANN-APAC TWNIC Engagement Forum. I was invited to be a panelist for the plenary “Empowering the Next Generation: Fostering Youth Engagement and Cross-Generational Collaboration in Internet Governance.”

DIGRA: Since the Ambassadors program, you have also been actively involved in the area of Internet Governance’s education and youth engagement. How do you see the landscape of youth engagement in Internet Governance in your region, the Asia Pacific?


Pavel: That is a great question; thanks for asking. We have been pondering this quite a bit because now, youth are gaining a seat at the table regarding policy development. ICANN provides a seat at the table, as do several youth fellowship programs, like APNIC, NetMission DotAsia, and APRIGF, the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum. It’s fantastic that we have a seat at the table now. However, sometimes I feel like even though we are present, our voices aren’t truly heard. At the end of the day, policy development is still dominated by those in higher authority positions. We seem to be there to fill the seats and quotas, but we still have a long way to go before we can substantially impact policy development. For example, the ICANN policies invite feedback from fellows and the next generation, but the board and the CEO ultimately make the decisions, and there are no youth on the board. Despite this, I believe we’re making progress because at least now we have a seat at the table.


DIGRA: During the Ambassadors Program, you were working on youth and Internet Governance Education research as part of your community engagement project. You then mentioned that about 30% of people who were aware of or involved in Internet Governance got involved through mentorships, fellowships, and such programs. In your opinion, what is the role of organisations like Digital Grassroots that provide entry points for young people into the field through capacity-building programs?


Pavel: I believe that organisations, like DIGRA and NetMission, which attract youth to come, participate and learn about Internet Governance, are indeed doing a fantastic job. However, Internet Governance is not taught in schools because it’s not a curriculum course. It’s something that we just stumble upon while we’re doing other things. For instance, I first learned about Internet Governance in 2019, a year into my master’s. Before that, I was unaware of the term, even though I knew about security, cybersecurity issues, and concepts like fake news. Prior to the APNIC fellowship, I didn’t know about Internet Governance. It was two incredible women, who I now consider my role models in Internet Governance, who guided me and suggested I apply to this fellowship and others. These programs are an incredible opportunity for organisations to attract youth and teach them about this sector, which they may not have heard of before.


DIGRA: You highlight fellowships’ critical role in bringing new people into the world of Internet Governance. But what happens when these programs end? How do we keep the momentum going?


Pavel: That is exactly the question I have been contemplating: how do we keep these people engaged in Internet Governance? Sometimes, people see it as an opportunity for free travel. They might attend a few sessions but spend the rest of the conference exploring a new city that they have never been to before. Accommodations and flights are free, and they even receive an allowance. These initiatives are lovely, but some people don’t return once they’re over because they lose engagement in Internet Governance. This is something I keep pondering: how do we keep these people involved? How do we keep them engaged? And secondly, considering Internet Governance is more of a voluntary task for us, how do we spread awareness about it to the next generation? Which channels can we use to do this? How can we attract more youth, especially the next age? These are a few things we have been discussing a lot.


DIGRA: Would it be more impactful if engagement in Internet Governance was recognized as a legitimate work field? Could this create more pathways for young people attending these conferences to stick with the field and find ways to innovate?


Pavel: That depends. For someone who is already working in the IT community or ICT industry in fields like machine learning, AI, data analytics, or network engineering, being passionate about Internet Governance works in their favour. But people outside these fields, like someone studying architecture, might feel that there is no scope for them. They might struggle to explain their interest to their supervisors and bosses if they want to attend these conferences and engage more with the Internet Governance community. It can be a challenge for those not in the field to understand the relevance of their work to Internet Governance. We are lucky to be in this field, and Internet Governance is like light at the end of the tunnel. However, for others, it may not be the same.


DIGRA: This is something that we have recognized and have been trying to address at DIGRA, creating a community that gathers young people from diverse backgrounds and different sectors, including public health, education, and journalism, among others. We recognize that there may be hesitations among those who don’t come from a traditional ICT or IT background. That’s why we want to emphasise in our programs that all experiences and knowledge bases are not only welcomed but necessary for building a healthy internet environment. It is important for us to make sure everyone feels they can contribute their unique insights to their communities’ digital issues.


Pavel: Absolutely. I agree with everything you said, and I would like to add that what might deter people from getting into Internet Governance is the perception that it is too technical. However, Internet Governance isn’t that technical unless you do the technical stuff, like cybersecurity. Generally, the knowledge of Internet Governance is more anthropological. It’s about the basic understanding of the internet, which, as we know, is now considered a basic human right. It is important for everyone, regardless of their background or field of work, to understand that Internet Governance is not just technical stuff and they don’t need an IT background. They need a desire to understand their actions on the internet and how they can navigate safely around it. The internet is scary, and many people don’t understand that. Topics like the right to be forgotten online are now coming up. It’s crucial to understand that data stays on the internet forever, but many people don’t realise this. They think that clicking delete makes something disappear forever. A basic understanding of these principles is what Digital Grassroots and other regional initiatives have been helping their ambassadors with. These organisations have done a very good job of helping youths from different fields navigate their online life.


DIGRA: Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insights on youth engagement in Internet governance.


Pavel: The pleasure is all mine. It has been an enriching journey over these past two years, and I look forward to our progress towards greater youth engagement. 

DIGRA Leadership in Action: Insights from Youth IGF Ghana 2023

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, the role of youth in steering the course of Internet Governance is paramount. At DIGRA, we stand at the forefront of this change, championing the cause of meaningfully engaging youth in Internet Governance across the globe. Our global community, spanning various countries, is a testament to our commitment to this cause. Osei Manu Kagyah from Ghana stands out as a dedicated member of our community, working toward building a youth-led digital space. While our reach is global, it is the individual stories of leaders like Osei that truly encapsulate the essence of our mission. We recently sat down with Osei to delve deeper into his experiences, insights, and aspirations for the digital future. Here’s our conversation with him.


DIGRA: Osei, it is wonderful to reconnect with you. We have been keenly following your leadership at the Youth IGF Ghana, and it is great to discuss it further. Also, a big thank you for inviting the DIGRA team to speak at the event. It was an honor.


Osei: Absolutely! When Lily Edinam Botsyoe and I were shaping the program’s agenda, I immediately thought of the talented individuals I knew at Digital Grassroots. Given my association as a fellow, it seemed fitting to invite them for a keynote. Lily brought up Uffa’s (Uffa Modey, Digital Grassroots Global Lead) name, which was a fantastic suggestion. Uffa joined us at the opening ceremony with a powerful keynote, emphasising the importance of solidarity. 


DIGRA: Can you share your personal experience in shaping and implementing this event?


Osei: Certainly, thank you for asking. The experience was genuinely fulfilling for me. Reflecting on my journey, being part of the ISOC Youth Ambassador program and the Digital Grassroots cohort in 2021, I feel I have come quite a distance. I played a pivotal role in organizing this program and represented the Ghana IGF. Our youth event preceded the main one, and during the main event, I presented our discussions from the previous day. Key figures from the digital ecosystem were present, and the entire experience felt deeply rewarding. Additionally, we showcased a documentary reviewing the Digital Grassroots Internet report during our program.


DIGRA: From your leadership at the youth IGF, what insights or lessons can you share?


Osei: During our program, our primary focus was fostering resilience among Ghanaian youth, aligning with the main IGF agenda of building a secure and sustainable digital future. We derived several key insights from our discussions:



The youth must not only grasp internet opportunities but also uphold ethical standards.


Enhancing digital literacy programs is crucial to bridge knowledge gaps and ensuring equal digital skills access.


Promoting a culture of fact-checking and emphasising the importance of accurate information dissemination is essential.


Addressing the digital divide is critical, and we must ensure equal access to digital tools without leaving anyone behind.


Collaboration between the private sector, civil society, and the government is vital for a system that bolsters youth entrepreneurship and innovation.


Encouraging intergenerational dialogue is essential, leveraging the unique perspectives of each generation for societal betterment.



We also discussed emerging technologies and trends, preparing Ghanaian youth to lead innovations.


DIGRA: Ghana appears proactive in encouraging youth involvement in internet governance. How do you assess the country’s standing in this regard?


Osei: Indeed. Ghana, I believe, is making commendable strides. I recently participated in the West African Youth IGF, hosted by Côte d’Ivoire. It was surprising to learn that many young individuals there had minimal knowledge about Internet governance. However, Ghana and Nigeria, within the West African region, are performing well. Other countries, like Cape Verde, are reaching out to learn from our experiences. In Ghana, the Youth IGF is dynamic. We have the Ghana Internet School of Governance (GIGS), where we introduce participants to Internet governance over a three-week course. 


DIGRA: Considering your active participation in various IGF editions, how do you see youth-led organisations influencing power dynamics during events like the IGF?


Osei: I contend that the youth frequently encounter disadvantages and roadblocks, particularly in terms of access to resources. Synergistic endeavors with well-established entities have the potential to improve this disparity. Interactions spanning different generations assume a paramount role, guaranteeing that seasoned individuals offer guidance to the youth. The youth exhibit enthusiasm and competence, although a substantial number remain uncertain about the appropriate starting point. When appropriately directed, their substantial contributions to discourse and policy formulation can be realised. Collaboration, resource allocation, and mentorship stand as pivotal factors in the progression of these deliberations and ensuing actions.


DIGRA: Finally, how do you envision the trajectory of youth engagement in internet governance across Ghana and Africa?


Osei: Looking ahead, I envision a future where more youth are actively engaged in the discussions and decision-making processes of internet governance. I see a time when internet governance is not something alien to anyone but a mainstream conversation. The youth will not just be props to balance discussions; their voices and inputs will be taken seriously and acted upon. In this future, the youth will emerge not only as digital users but as responsible digital citizens, proactively shaping their digital future. To achieve this, collaboration across different sectors and the availability of resources for the youth are paramount. I hope to see a time when our youth are at the forefront, genuinely influencing policies and discussions about the internet, its governance, and its impact on our societies.


DIGRA: It has been such a pleasure hearing your perspective. We appreciate you sharing your experiences with us and look forward to future engagements with you. 


Osei: Thank you for having me. Count me in for those future initiatives!

Fostering a Feminist Internet: Insights from Pada Platform’s Founder

In our latest conversation, we shine a spotlight on the journey of Karen Mukwasi, our community member from Zimbabwe, and her organisation’s remarkable efforts in promoting digital inclusion and women’s rights. Through her relentless efforts with Pada Platform, she exemplifies the potential of grassroots movements to build a feminist Internet. Delve into Karen’s story to understand the challenges, successes, and aspirations shaping the future of digital empowerment in her region.


DIGRA: Hi Karen, thanks so much for joining us and being willing to share your story with us. It has been a year since your participation in the Digital Rights Learning Exchange Program, and we are eager to hear what you have been up to since then. But first, let’s talk about your organisation and your personal journey into becoming a filmmaker, writer, and women’s rights advocate. How did you find the intersection of these fields in your work?


Karen: I think it emerged from a need. My initial path led me into software engineering right after college. I worked in Botswana for a few years before returning to Zimbabwe in 2008. There, I joined a women’s filmmaking organisation, starting as an information officer focused on IT and communication. However, my work soon diversified. I ventured into writing, producing, and managing productions. The women’s rights organisation I worked for used film as a tool for advocacy. I coordinated a women’s film festival in countries like Malawi, Uganda, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. It was during this tenure that I delved deep into women’s rights advocacy. Joining the Women’s Coalition opened my eyes to the need for digital inclusion, especially since no women’s organisations seemed to be focusing on this. That’s when I revisited my roots in IT, this time from an advocacy perspective. This eventually led to the creation of the Pada Platform.


DIGRA: It is remarkable to hear about how international your journey has been leading to the Pada Platform. Can you elaborate on the symbolism behind the organisation’s name?


Karen: Certainly. “Pada” is a Shona word derived from the game hopscotch, known in Shona as “Pada”. In Zimbabwe, almost every girl has played this game, especially in less privileged areas, as it requires minimal resources. For us, it symbolises sisterhood, competitiveness, creativity, and the celebration of women’s achievements. We wanted our Platform to resonate with these values and to foster a space where young women and girls come together. Thus, “Pada Platform” was conceived by three of us, each rooted in film, IT, and women’s rights.


DIGRA: Our understanding is that you create a space for young women and girls to innovate and create. How do you achieve that? What practices and activities are implemented?


Karen: We run various programs, including digital literacy sessions targeting girls aged 13 to 21. Another segment, “Tech to Participate,” seeks to leverage technology to enhance the participation of young women. This encompasses both the digital literacy program and coding classes. We even host an annual hackathon where university students create tech solutions aimed at bolstering women’s participation. Additionally, we advocate for safe spaces for women, emphasising how the internet can be a potent tool in this pursuit.


DIGRA: With respect to your mission, we are also curious to hear how the Pada Platform challenges the perception of IT being male-dominated, especially when working with girls from less privileged backgrounds.


Karen: Our approach is deliberate: creating all-female spaces. We only allow female and non-binary participants, focusing on fostering confidence without intimidation or stereotyping. The transition we have observed is astounding; initially, timid girls evolve into confident coders, proudly showcasing their work.


DIGRA: Storytelling, given your background in filmmaking and writing, must hold a special place in your advocacy. Can you speak to its power?


Karen: Indeed, storytelling is transformative. It not only resonates with women by showcasing relatable success stories but also influences decision-makers. By presenting impactful narratives, we highlight the crucial role of internet access for women, especially during unforeseen situations like the covid lockdown.


DIGRA: You touched upon the internet as a space because you mentioned that we have one of the programs that run online. As a follow-up to our DRLX program that you engaged in last year, how do you see the internet and digital space as mediums to amplify your message and the work you’ve been doing?


Karen: The internet is a critical space at the moment, especially when you look at Zimbabwe. There has been a significant shrinking of the engagement space. Many arrests have occurred. We have lost our freedoms of assembly and association. The only safe assemblies we have are online. This is our most crucial outlet to tell our story. In Zimbabwe, there was an internet shutdown in 2019. Many violations occurred during that period. We documented 20 violations in one area alone, specifically against women. These were incidents of rape, physical assault, and political violence. Without the internet, women aren’t safe, nor do they have a voice. Bringing them online provides access to both a national and international audience. Our issues as Zimbabweans require an international audience. National advocacy often meets with resistance. But with international solidarity, we can be heard at the African Union level and even the United Nations.


DIGRA: Considering the national challenges you mentioned, what strategies have you found most useful for promoting your work, advocating for change, and providing women a safe space online?


Karen: Petitioning has proven effective. In 2020, we had a massive online petition for a 15-year-old girl who died in childbirth due to child marriage. At first, the police claimed ignorance, but after gathering 60,000 signatures, the police commissioner responded positively. Online advocacy, supported by Facebook and Twitter activity, amplified the issue. During the 16 days of activism last year, we initiated “Black Friday.” Participants shared images of themselves in black, protesting child marriage. We now have a Children’s Act that tackles these issues, thanks to consistent online advocacy.


DIGRA: You have also mentioned internet advocacy campaigns. Can you share your experience during our Digital Rights Learning Exchange Cohort 1 program and any insights you have been able to incorporate into your work?


KarenCertainly. During the program, I was part of the Access and Affordability group, focusing on women’s digital inclusion. With the Internet Society, we started a similar project in Zimbabwe, promoting women’s online access and affordability. We hope to expand our project after the upcoming elections. Working with the local chapter of the Internet Society, plan to train women parliamentarians on digital inclusion and necessary policies. We are also considering a community networks school next year to empower women further.


DIGRA: It is inspiring to hear. In terms of community engagement, how do you facilitate the transfer of knowledge in your context, and what are your aspirations for the Pada Platform and the broader landscape of digital inclusion and women’s rights in your region?


Karen: We collaborate with other organisations and community-based institutions. They send representatives to us. We have trained 20 women human rights defenders, who are our liaisons in various communities. When I think about our vision, I would say our primary aspiration is to establish feminist digital hubs in communities, making it easier for women to access the internet, digital devices, and training.


DIGRA: That is amazing! Please keep us updated about your work and achievements. We would love to hear about Pada Platform successes. 


Karen: Thank you. I appreciate the platform to share my story. 


A Young Internet Leader Shaping Internet Governance: Celebrating Rachad Sanoussi’s Impact

By Muhammed Bello Buhari | July 24, 2023

In the vast digital landscape, where powerful entities exert control, there are young individuals who rise above, passionately advocating for a fairer, more inclusive internet. Today, we are honored to shine the spotlight on one of our community members our Technical Support Rachad Sanoussi, a remarkable young digital champion whose tireless efforts have made a profound impact on internet governance. Hailing from Benin, Rachad embarked on his journey to transform the digital landscape, armed with a deep understanding of the importance of Internet governance. As a student of computer science and telecommunications, he observed the challenges faced by his community in accessing and utilising digital technologies. Recognizing the centralization of power and the need for diverse voices to be heard, Rachad fearlessly stepped forward, determined to make a difference — to advocate for the voices of internet users, especially marginalised groups, in the decisions that directly affect them.


In 2019, Rachad was selected as an Internet Society’s Youth IGF Ambassador Fellow, granting him the opportunity to attend the 2019 Internet Governance Forum in Berlin, Germany. This experience deepened his understanding of Internet governance as he learned about global Internet infrastructure and policy and connected with a vibrant community of Internet governance professionals. It was during the forum in Berlin, while visiting the stands, that Rachad discovered Digital Grassroots, a platform that piqued his interest. Eager to learn more, he collected our flyers and stickers and explored our Ambassadors program.


Upon his return to Benin, Rachad noticed that Digital Grassroots had launched a call for applications for the Community Leaders for Internet Health program, a project that’s part of the Mozilla Open Leaders X initiative and supported by Mozilla Foundation’s Internet Health Report team. Being an advocate for open internet, he applied and was selected to participate. In early 2020, Rachad participated in the program, which he co-created for 2021. As part of his fellowship project, he collaborated with Internet Society Benin to map the history of the Internet in Benin. Rachad showcased his talent for connecting global organisations to local issues using a bottom-up, multistakeholder approach.


In August 2020, Rachad joined the board of Digital Grassroots, providing technical support. He started by becoming an active member of our online community of young internet governance activists, engaging in discussions, forums, and events to expand his knowledge of crucial internet governance issues. As his involvement grew, Rachad recognized that one of the most pressing challenges was digital access and inclusion. This realisation led to his participation in national and international internet governance meetings, including his first ICANN meeting.


Working with Digital Grassroots, Rachad curated the Community Leaders Program for Internet Advocacy, which focused on using the internet for democratic participation. Within Internet Society Benin, he collaborated with civil society associations through various actions such as digital campaigns and open letters. One notable achievement was advocating for the use of the internet to prevent an internet blackout during the previous presidential elections in Benin. His technical prowess combined with his active participation in dialogues on healthy internet, gender equality, and technology gives him unique insights into the challenges faced by underrepresented youth.


In 2021, Rachad continued his engagement in internet governance. He participated as a Fellow Participant in the Virtual Research Sprint titled “Toward an African Narrative on Digital Sovereignty” and also became a fellow of the Ghana School on Internet Governance. His dedication and contributions to internet governance education led him to receive the Youth Digital Champion Award from the mEducation Alliance.


At the 16th Internet Governance Forum (IGF 2021) held in Katowice, Poland, Rachad and a group of young people coordinated the work of the working group on Universal Access and Meaningful Connectivity. Together, they presented the results of several months of work at the IGF Global Youth Summit. Their Points of Action can be found here.


Throughout the years, Rachad has emerged as a leading figure in Internet governance in his region. His active participation has raised awareness among policymakers about key Internet governance issues and encouraged open and inclusive dialogue. In 2022, he had the privilege of attending the African School on Internet Governance (AfriSIG) organised by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and became a fellow twice in a row for two ICANN meetings.


Rachad’s dedication to promoting fair, transparent, and inclusive Internet governance has extended beyond his region. He has collaborated with activists worldwide, contributing to the creation of tools and resources that empower internet users better to understand the risks and challenges of internet governance. Recently, he was honored with the inaugural Paul Muchene Fellow Award at the ICANN 76 Community Forum.

Today, Rachad takes pride in his journey and the impact he has made on internet governance. He continues to work with unwavering passion and dedication, defending the rights of internet users and striving to build a more equitable and privacy-friendly digital future.


In 2019, at the Internet Governance Forum in Germany, I discovered Digital Grassroots while visiting the booths. That’s when I became fascinated with everything they do. I wanted to know more about their ambassador program and even collected their flyers and stickers. Back in Benin, I participated in their Community Leaders for Internet Health program, which provided me with invaluable knowledge on connecting global organisations to local issues using a bottom-up approach. Since then, I have joined their board as technical support, co-created youth programs, and actively engaged in discussions, forums, and events on critical internet governance issues. Through these endeavours, I strive to amplify the voices of youth and marginalised groups, ensuring that inclusion is at the forefront of internet governance agendas.


Together, let’s applaud Rachad Sanoussi as he continues to shape internet governance and inspires others to stand up for a fair and inclusive internet for all. His remarkable journey, fueled by passion and dedication, serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative impact that individuals can make in the digital realm. Through his unwavering commitment, he strives to ensure that the voices of internet users, especially marginalised groups, are heard loud and clear. Join us as we celebrate Rachad’s awesomeness, his outstanding achievements, and his ongoing efforts to build a more equitable, privacy-friendly, and empowering digital future.

We recently published our impact report, showcasing the incredible work Rachad has been shaping as part of our team. We invite you to explore the report here and discover the inspiring impact stories of other community members as well.


Digital Grassroots at RightsCon 2023: Empowering Young Leaders in the Digital Rights Space

By Muhammed Bello Buhari | July 8, 2023


Digital Grassroots, in a landmark partnership, teamed up with the RightsCon team to co-create and deliver the Young Leaders Summit (YLS), a key component of RightsCon 2023. We engaged from the preparatory stages, putting our expertise to work and shaping the event to effectively cater to young digital rights advocates from around the globe. RightsCon 2023 was a global event organized by Access Now that aimed to bring together over 8,000 participants from 174 countries to discuss and promote a rights-respecting digital future. With a diverse range of programming across 15 tracks, RightsCon provided a platform to address various topics and challenges related to digital rights. The event occurred in San Jose, Costa Rica, from 5th to 8th June 2023, with registrations to the various sessions open to the public.


Workshop: Movement Building for Youth at RightsCon

Our organization had the opportunity to contribute to the RightsCon Young Leaders Summit by hosting a workshop titled ‘Movement Building for Youth at RightsCon’ on June 5, 2023, which was facilitated by David Aragort, our stellar community member from Venezuela, researcher, and advocate in the field of tech, democracy, and human rights. David played a pivotal role in the workshop, adapting the session design and methodology to create a space that effectively married learning and networking. Leveraging his extensive experience, David ensured that the workshop catered to the needs of the participants, who were mainly newcomers to the RightsCon space.


In addition to his active role in facilitating the workshop, David further contributed to the event by actively participating and representing the youth voices of the global south. Drawing from his experiences on the ground, David shared invaluable insights, his perspectives shed light on the challenges and opportunities faced by young leaders advocating for digital rights in regions such as Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Some of the key insights he shared during the event include:


  • The urgent need for increased international support and solidarity to amplify the voices of activists working in authoritarian states, address challenges they face and promote collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and open dialogue to counter digital authoritarianism.
  • The importance of leveraging innovative technological solutions to address censorship and surveillance challenges faced by digital rights advocates.
  • The importance of resources and support for youth engagement in digital rights advocacy, including networking opportunities and social spaces, to enhance the overall experience for newcomers and participants.
  • The significance of promoting digital literacy and skills training programs to empower marginalized communities in the global south and bridge the digital divide.


These insights from David underscored the critical role that youth leaders from the global south play in advancing digital rights, and they sparked meaningful discussions and exchanges among participants. We extend our gratitude to David for his invaluable contribution to the success of this workshop.


RightsCon Costa Rica Youth Social Hour

In addition to the workshop, we hosted the ‘RightsCon Young Leaders Summit Social Hour.’ This virtual session was facilitated prior to the Young Leaders Summit on May 29, 2023, by our Chief Strategist, Esther Mwema, our Global Lead, Uffa Modey, our Communications Lead, Hanna Pishchyk, our Programs Lead, Morisola Alaba, and our Tech Support, Rachad Sanoussi, brought together approximately 50 participants from over 20 countries. The social hour allowed young participants to engage with one another, build connections, and network. 


Our guest speaker delivered a presentation introducing attendees to the history, mission, and impact of RightsCon, while also sharing best practices and pathways for remotely participating in RightsCon Costa Rica. Participants were self-divided into three discussion groups based on their interests related to RightsCon and its key topics, focusing on connecting and networking, collaborations for digital rights advocacy, and available digital rights advocacy resources. The interactive format allowed participants to connect, exchange ideas, and explore potential partnerships. This session highlighted the significance of fostering international connections and cooperation among young leaders, paving the way for future joint efforts in promoting digital rights worldwide.


In conclusion, our organization’s participation in RightsCon 2023 proved to be a valuable experience. The Young Leaders Summit and its Social Hour provided meaningful engagement opportunities for young leaders, facilitating connections and collaborations. They highlighted the importance of interactive sessions, inclusive networking spaces, and ongoing discussions on pressing digital rights issues. 


Reflecting on the event, we also recognize the need to do more. We must strive to include more young people, particularly those from marginalized communities, in spaces like RightsCon. This year, the unfortunate reality of exclusion manifested when over 300 participants from less-recognized nations could not attend due to visa complications. Additional challenges emerged from financial constraints tied to visa procurement and travel expenses. These challenges are even more pressing for young people, who often lack the resources and support to participate fully. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to advocate for more inclusive policies and measures that address these barriers, allowing for diverse and representative participation of voices at events like RightsCon. Moving forward, our organization remains committed to empowering young leaders, amplifying marginalized voices, and actively working towards a more inclusive and accessible digital rights landscape.

Leading Digital Literacy in Your Community: Apply for the Digital Grassroots Ambassadors Program Cohort 6

Are you a Digital Grassroots Ambassadors Program alumni interested in using the Internet as a tool for social good and development? We invite you to step forward for the community edition of our program, the Digital Grassroots Ambassadors Program Cohort 6.


The key objective of this edition is to equip our alumni to take on the role of digital literacy trainers, imparting crucial insights on Internet governance and digital rights to 15-20 young individuals (14-29 years old) from their local communities. This initiative is part of our ongoing commitment to fostering proactive youth participation in Internet Governance and endorsing Internet Literacy as an indispensable instrument for realizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4, 5, 10, 16, and 17.


Key stages of the program include a 2-week onboarding for trainers, a 4-week online course phase where trainers guide their trainees through the Internet Literacy Course, and a concluding 2-week mentorship phase introducing trainees to the world of Internet Governance.


Program Timeline:


Onboarding and trainee registrations: July 31 – August 11, 2023

Online course phase: August 13 – September 9, 2023

Mentorship phase: September 11 – 22, 2023

Final presentations virtual event: September 22, 2023


If you’re aged between 14-29 years and dedicated to knowledge sharing and community engagement, we want you to apply. Thanks to our generous donors, we can provide a $500 stipend to all selected community trainers to support their internet connectivity costs during the program.


Applications are open until July 14, 2023. Successful candidates will be notified via email by July 21, 2023.


Join us in our effort to create a more inclusive digital future through community empowerment. 

5 Years of Building Future Internet Leaders: DIGRA Impact Report

By Muhammed Bello Buhari


Today is a big day for us here at Digital Grassroots!


We are excited to announce the release of our 5-year Impact Report, celebrating the great work that we’ve carried out over the course of our five years of existence in building future internet leaders by proactively engaging over 230 young people from underrepresented communities in over 65 countries globally while cumulatively facilitating over 190 community engagement projects in addressing internet-related issues in their communities through digital literacy, networking, and activism.


This 5-year Impact Report chronicles Digital Grassroots’ journey of increasing digital citizenship on Internet governance and digital rights among youth from underrepresented communities globally from inception in December 2017 till date. It highlights our inception stories; program offerings and how we have evolved over the years; reach and impact; young people and initiatives supported; mentors supporting our programs; partners collaborating, and various stakeholders enabling their work. It shows how we focus our actions on impact for a digital world that is inclusive, rights-respecting, and useful to all. It also demonstrates our desire to measure, in a concrete and continuous way, the impact of our actions on shaping the digital landscape for youth by youth, in connection with our ecosystem.


235 youths directly engaged in 67 countries across the world and 30 languages represented. 197 community engagement projects from 11 programs. 70 mentors and 32 trainers around the globe. This is a glimpse of what 5 years of Digital Grassroots look like in numbers. How do you translate such numbers into tangible impact? Do these results contribute to this healthier and more inclusive internet we’re committed to, and the Digital Grassroots team gets up for every day? All of Digital Grassroots’ results are featured in the Impact Report, showing the impact made from the start in 2017 to December 2022.


Finally, this report goes beyond numbers and shares stories from across the DIGRA community that demonstrate how connecting with our activities and diverse network of individuals and organisations, has impacted their personal and professional lives. We hope you enjoy reading our Impact Report. We are unstoppable together! 


Dive In: Read the report here or download the PDF below.


Gamified Learning for Internet Governance at MozFest 2023: Spotlight on Digital Rights Monopoly

By Muhammed Bello Buhari

The Mozilla Festival (Mozfest) is an annual convention hosted by the Mozilla Foundation to harness the collective power of partnerships. The festival brings together artists, public interest technologists, policymakers, and activists to creatively work together with the aim of creating trustworthy artificial intelligence and a healthy internet. 


This year’s virtual event took place from 20th to 24th March 2023, with registrations to the various sessions open to the public. Digital Grassroots (DIGRA) hosted a workshop session on its Digital Rights Monopoly Game. This session was facilitated on March 23, 2023, by our founder and Chief Strategist, Esther Mwema, and our Co-founder and Global Lead, Uffa Modey, and moderated by Chrystal Bonzo. We gamified digital rights concepts through our ‘Digital Rights Monopoly’ and mapped the globe’s internet infrastructure to show why we need to ‘localize internet governance’ to maintain an open and equal internet. We built upon Mozilla Festival 2018, in which we showcased the Digital Rights Monopoly game to bring awareness to digital rights issues affecting the young people we are working with. In this session at MozFest 2023, we had open consultation on the game.


Our Global Lead, Uffa Modey, gave the background of the session. She introduced the participants to Digital Grassroots, and the Digital Rights Monopoly Game, where she mentioned that “the game was co-created by Digital Grassroots as a simulation game of Monopoly based on digital rights, abuses, and data breaches currently affecting youth living in marginalized regions. The digital rights issues featured in the game will represent the streets and utilities that are usually included in a Monopoly game. This version of web literacy engages players in a game to recognize global internet issues through our version of Digital Rights Monopoly by bringing to light Digital Grassroots’s work to bring internet governance to young people in over 40 countries. Digital Rights Monopoly is a game that reflects core digital rights issues affecting youth in marginalized regions and offers pathways to build a healthier internet in local communities. We are raising awareness of the varying digital rights circumstances across the globe through a reenactment of the game of Monopoly.” And then added that the MozFest session seeks to get input from the community on the Digital Rights Monopoly game.


Chrystal moderated the Roundtable Discussion for the community input on the Digital Rights Monopoly Game. Participants shared their thoughts on the game. One participant said, “in the age of Artificial Intelligence, games like DRM increase accessibility and community-centered contributions to the digital ecosystem.” Uffa talked about how games can reach underrepresented communities and how community-centered games shape understanding of AI. Then Esther closed the session by reviewing the recommendations made during the open consultation and collected the contacts of the participants who were interested in staying involved.


Digital Right Monopoly Game is a reenactment of the traditional game of Monopoly that adapts gamification and edutainment as a method for digital literacy for newcomers from the global majority to identify and address issues relating to the digital rights and internet governance space. In a game session, the participants will engage with an overview description of the common digital rights issues and encounter highlights and lowlights of digital rights real-life scenarios in Monopoly Chance and Community Chest.


Read about the session here, and if you’re interested in getting involved with this, you can contact us here.