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.