2020 Open Internet Leaders

2020 Open Internet Leaders

Meet our 2020 Open Internet Leaders!

Yohannes Eneyew Ayalew (Ethiopia)

Yohannes is a PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Law, Monash University in Australia. His project looks at internet freedom in Africa. He was a Lecturer in Law at School of Law, Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia where he was teaching and researching on Media Law and Human Rights. He holds a Master of Laws (LL.M) in International Human Rights Law (University of Groningen), and LL.M in Public International Law (Addis Ababa University). His research interest lies in the areas of Internet Freedom, Intermediary Liability, and International Human Rights Law. As a Media Defence fellow, he was developing strategic litigation plans for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression in Ethiopia.


Meri Baghdasaryan (Armenia)

Meri Baghdasaryan is a human rights attorney from Armenia, focused on international human rights litigation and research. She has served as an expert for the Council of Europe and UNDP Armenia. Currently she is an LL.M Candidate at University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School (USA). In the Internet governance (IG) ecosystem her expertise and interests include issues related to privacy and data protection, freedom of speech and youth participation in IG. She is a member of SEEDIG and EuroDIG communities, YCIG Steering Committee member for the Eastern European group and editor of the SEESummary issues, covering digital policy and IG developments in South Eastern Europe and the neighboring area (SEE+). Recently she co-led the SEEDIG intersessional project, researching the COVID-19 tracking apps in SEE+.


Sheilah Birgen (Kenya)

Sheilah’s work in Kenya and across Africa includes co-creating digital policies, enabling the growth of startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), and convening communities and entrepreneurs. She is the CEO of The CoRD, an innovation ecosystem building, policy creation, and advocacy agency based in Nairobi. Sheilah also serves on several international boards such as the Global Innovation Gathering, Africa Innovation Policy Task Force (AIPTF), the Vice Chair of the Association of Startups, and SME Enablers of Kenya (ASSEK). She has worked with over 1,000 entrepreneurs across the African continent. Sheilah often guest lectures on entrepreneurship and holds a Master of Business Administration in Social Entrepreneurship.

Paola Galvez (Peru)

Paola has a passion for leveraging technology to advance diversity and inclusion. She is currently the head of regulatory and public affairs at Niubox, a Peruvian consulting firm where she is tasked to develop and deliver strategic regulatory interventions to shape a better regulatory framework for the digital ecosystem. Prior to working at Niubox, Paola worked for more than five years at the intersection of law and technology while at Microsoft and Montezuma & Porto.  Paola also enjoys teaching technology law at the University of Lima. She is an Internet Society Internet Governance Forum Youth Ambassador 2019, and the head of audit at the Youth Observatory.



Nashilongo Gervasius (Namibia)

Nashilongo Gervasius is a Digital Consultant and lead technology, media and freedom of expression, gender, democracy and governance research and projects at NamTshuwe Digital. She is also a Media and Communication Lecturer. Nashilongo is the founder of the Internet Society Namibia Chapter where she led and implemented Technology Policy research and projects. She is also a founding member of the National Working Group on Internet Governance Forum in Namibia. In the technology policy space, Nashilongo actively engages in the areas of Inclusion, Digital Rights as well as ICT for Development. Nashilongo holds a Masters in ICT and the Knowledge Society and Honours Degree in Journalism and Communication Technology.

Catherine Muya (Kenya)

Catherine Muya is a lawyer and policy officer advancing digital rights and data governance in sub-Saharan Africa through comprehensive policy engagement and advocacy. As a Tech Policy Fellow at the Lawyers Hub Kenya, she leads her organization’s work in Internet Governance and Electoral Democracy. She has written on various issues including digital identity, data governance and elections in Africa. She helped convene the inaugural Africa Law Tech Festival in Kenya bringing together stakeholders from 20+ countries to discuss policy alternatives on Digital Rights. Working with a coalition of civil society, she has supported strategic litigation on digital rights like Kenya’s Digital ID petition against the implementation of a digital ID system without comprehensive privacy laws. She holds a Bachelor of Laws Degree (with Honors) from the University of Nairobi. Additionally, she holds Professional Certification in Digital Identity from the Digital Frontiers Institute, South Africa. She further holds certification in Intellectual Property from the World Intellectual Property Office and the Korean Intellectual Property Office.

Esther Mwema (Zambia)

Esther Mwema is an artist whose drive is to build tools toward girls' safety (via Safety First for Girls) and to increase digital citizenship in local communities (via Digital Grassroots). She is concerned with addressing Inequalities as an Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity based at the London School of Economics. She is an Open Internet Leader interested in understanding how infrastructure affects power relations. She has published a short literary fiction Bow to Enter Heaven and Other Stories under her pen name Hadassah Louis. You can find her at www.hadassahlouis.com or on Twitter @hadassahlouis.





Gideon Sarpong (Ghana)

Gideon Sarpong is a policy analyst and media practitioner with over eight years of experience in policy, data and investigative journalism. Gideon is a co-founder of iWatch Africa and currently the Director of Policy and News. His work includes designing strategic project and policy focus for the organization and leads iWatch’s digital rights initiative. Gideon holds a PgD in Fiscal Policy for Financing Sustainable Development from the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning, in South Africa. He is a Policy Leader Fellow at the European University Institute, School of Trans-national Governance in Florence and a firm believer in promoting a safe, secure and inclusive digital ecosystem.