We’re excited to welcome two new members to the A4AI Advisory Council: Osama Manzar, Founder and Director of Digital Empowerment Foundation, and Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy, Africa. As part of the Advisory Council, Osama and Ebele will provide oversight and strategic direction to the Alliance by contributing to A4AI’s annual objectives, policy positions, and country engagement decisions, and ensuring work plans align with the Alliance’s mission and strategy. Both will assume their new roles this January and will serve a two-year term.
Osama is the Founder and Director of Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), an India-based nonprofit that has been instrumental in bringing information access to more than a million people in the country’s most remote areas. A long-time Internet advocate and ICT expert, he has co-authored multiple books, including NetCh@kra: 15 Years of Internet in India and e-Content: Voices from the Ground, and serves on several government committees, the board of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), and the board of World Summit Awards. He frequently speaks and writes on how digital access plays a critical role in the development of rural and remote regions, and has contributed to more than 200 case studies on India and South Asia.
Osama, who joins the Advisory Council as a representative of A4AI’s civil society organisation members, explained his motivations for joining the Council:
“I believe access for all is not only essential but also a fundamental human right. We have seen more than 20 years of functional Internet, and more than 12 years of the Information Society movement and yet, over half the world is yet to be connected. It is imperative that the entire approach to access for all be focused from the perspective of the bottom of the pyramid.”
Ebele is Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, Africa, and brings diverse leadership experience from roles with stakeholders such as global ICT companies, nonprofits, and others. Before joining Facebook, Ebele was the Global Head of Human Rights at Yahoo!, a lawyer at Davis Polk & Wardwell, a consumer rights policy lawyer at Consumers Union in San Francisco, a senior director at Catalyst in Amsterdam, and MDP in Nike’s EMEA headquarters. An expert in human rights and public policy, she was a founding board member of the Global Network Initiative, is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the advisory boards of Women in Technology in Nigeria and TipHub.
Ebele, who will represent A4AI’s private sector membership on the Advisory Council, shared her enthusiasm for A4AI’s mission:
“As a first generation Nigerian, born in America and now working across Africa, I am passionate about technology as a driver for economic and social development. A4AI has an incredible opportunity and responsibility to shape a policy ecosystem that both drives growth and empowers people to be creators and not just consumers, and I am excited to be an active part of that effort.”
A4AI Executive Director Sonia Jorge added:
“We are honored to have the opportunity to work more closely with Osama and Ebele at the advisory level. I have been impressed by their sincere commitment to the affordability agenda, and it is exciting to see the Advisory Council evolve to include more diverse voices that reflect the global nature of the Alliance.”
We would also like to take this opportunity to recognise outgoing Advisory Council members Sascha Meinrath (X-Lab, New America Foundation) and Peter Pitsch (Intel) for their service. Their contribution to A4AI in our first two years has been invaluable, and we look forward to continuing our work with them and their respective organisations as members of the Alliance.
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