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Shape Tomorrow

Help shape a digital future that puts people first

The Internet is a force for good.

But it’s up to each of us to keep it that way.

The Internet changes everything. It can build a business from the spark of an idea. It can help kids go to school. It eradicates distance and differences. It was built as a platform for hope and opportunity.

But the world is changing faster and faster and many are left wondering what role the Internet is playing in it. Our hopes and fears about it are dividing us and one thing is clear – the Internet’s future is not certain.

We need your help.

The Shape Tomorrow campaign is your chance to take action and shape the digital future that is for the benefit of all of humanity. The path we take is up to us. Join us and shape tomorrow.

Join the Everyday Heroes

Around the world, there are people – just like you – who building a digital future that benefits all of humanity.

To the people in their communities, they are heroes. You can be one too.

Join us and get share your story of how you are shaping Internet as a tool for good.

Anne-Marie-EDH-web

Sweden

Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder is dedicated to keeping us safe online.

Ranked as one of Sweden’s leading experts on IT security, she is the Chief Information Security Officer at IIS, The Internet Foundation In Sweden. She also serves on the boards of Internet-related organisations including the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries (CENTR) and the Swedish Law and Informatics Research Institute.

In 2013 Eklund Löwinder was the first Swede to become inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame. 

Through her work, she not only helps shape technology but also reminds us that online safety is up to all of us.

“Are people or tech harder to fix when it comes to making the Internet safer? People. They have far more bugs. When you connect to the Internet you become a part of something that is common. Like any other commons, you need to show respect to others sharing it with you.”

Benjz-EDH-web

Philippines

What makes things work better? Being able to talk to each other.

Vice President for Development of Internet Society – Philippine Chapter (ISOC PH) Benjz Sevilla is helping governments, businesses, and people across the Phillippines do just that.

“My role is to create ways that governments, businesses, and people can talk to each other to make the Internet better for the Philippines,” said Sevilla. In his day job with the Department of Information and Communications Technology and in his role as co-chair of Philippine Network Operators’ Group, he has ample chances to do just that.

Some of his many tasks are to provide that country with reliable broadband Internet access throughout all regions, keeping it connected to the world, and keeping its people connected to each other.

His hope is that through this, new jobs will be created and will result in more trade and social mobility for the country’s population.

“It’s about making sure there’s content and there’s equitable access to it.”

For the Philippines and well beyond, Sevilla is an Everyday Hero

Naitik-EDH-web

India

As Naitik Mehta anxiously studied for his Grade 6 exams, his mother gave him a suggestion that changed his life.

“Why are you studying so hard?” he recalls her asking. “Go out and play.”

It was an unorthodox suggestion from a mother in the town of Pune, India, where kids were encouraged to excel academically in hopes of one day becoming a doctor or an engineer.

Mehta, now 21, remembers his mother’s advice as the moment he realized his family would be supportive if he lived his life unconventionally.

He began to dabble in sports and, later, design. When he showed his drawings to his aunts, both of whom worked for Microsoft, they explained that he could draw on a computer. With that, he was hooked.

By grade 11, Mehta left his formal school to homeschool himself while running his own design studio. After high school, he applied to six international design schools. He was accepted at five but at only one —Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Canada—was he granted a student visa.

His struggles attaining a visa made him aware of the many “barriers to opportunity” faced by people around the world. These barriers became more evident during his undergraduate studies when he became friends with two men with disabilities, both of whom struggled with academic acceptance despite being very bright. Through them, he saw that the obstacles faced by people with disabilities were far greater than for those without.

“There are 1.3 billion people in the world with disabilities,” says Mehta, speaking over Skype from Facebook’s London office where he was doing internship over the summer. Many struggle with isolation and social stigma, and people with disabilities have 50% higher rates of unemployment.

He saw that as an opportunity. “Businesses are missing out on a large, untapped pool of talent.”

He, his two friends and his brother (who’d also moved to Vancouver) began looking at the issue as a design problem. “You start with the problem and you talk to people. You begin to understand and empathize what problems are, and then you dig deeper to get to a solution.”

In 2016, they formed NextBillion.org. The organization works to support people with disabilities by offering a 12-week online mentorship program, pairing them with mentors from the tech industry.

The program is currently in its second cohort with 70 participants matched with mentors from companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, PayPal, Palantir, and Uber. Mehta and colleagues hope to complete 240 mentorships by the end of 2017 and 11,000 by 2019.

Next Billion is the first of what Mehta hopes will many design projects that break down barriers for people. He keeps a book of ideas, scribbling down thoughts on projects to explore in future.

“I was just looking at how you can bring the concept of bots to people who use old Nokia brick phones,” says Mehta, explaining that it could be a platform to help people in rural areas of India to learn English.

He feels a deep personal satisfaction from working on ideas that change people’s lives. It’s become a goal for all future projects, he said.

“I want to impact one billion people in the world by helping them reach their full potential and breaking down financial, educational and social barriers to have them reach their full potential.”

Poornima-EDH-web

Sri Lanka

A 24-year-old filmmaker on the verge of graduating college in Sri Lanka moonlights as an Internet hero, helping hundreds of other women face down cyber harassment.

As the Internet becomes more popular across the globe, problems caused by the anonymity of the platform can take new users—particularly teenage girls experiencing the web for the first time—by surprise. Poornima Meegammana started Respect Girls on the Internet to give those women a community of support and a steadfast avenue for help and advice as they navigate through it.

That’s where Meegammana shines.

Respect Girls on the Internet has helped nearly 300 women since its inception in 2014. With the help of the Shilpa Sayura Foundation and the Internet Society Beyond the Net Programme, Meegammana began creating digital content in several local languages to raise awareness about cyber harassment.

“[In Sri Lanka] we have laws to help teenagers facing cyber harassment, but they take a long time, and some of the youth don’t have the capacity to get legal help,” Meegammana said. “So we help them. We can do it ourselves if the issues are small enough, or we can get them to specialists if they need legal assistance.”

Meegammana is able to make a difference in so many lives, all while still moving forward. She is an Everyday Hero.

Valentino-EDH-web

Greece

Late Summer, 2016. The weeks were ticking down to the American presidential election and bogus news stories—Pope Backs Trump! Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS!— were picking up speed. More than 8,000 kilometers away from the White House, in a small apartment in Thessaloniki, Greece, 19-year-old Valentinos Tzekas watched with concern.

“I was really curious because I never saw this kind of panic out there before. Everyone—CNN, The Washington Post—was talking about fake news, fake news,” recalls Tzekas.

Tzekas, an entrepreneurial computer whiz who had one globally-successful app to his credit, thought there must be a solution.

The applied informatics student at the University of Macedonia decided to approach fake news the way he goes after all vexing computer problems: he shut the door to his room (“the cave,” he calls it), put on his headphones to block out the world, and set about to research, then write an app to help people identify misinformation.

He wanted his program to do more than pick out truths and falsehoods. He wanted a tool to help people question what they read. “Maybe change their whole mindset about a topic.”

Fake news, he felt, was “a huge ethical problem in people’s minds. How do you solve this thing because fake news is not a technical problem. It’s an issue in the minds of the people.”

He worked alone in the apartment he shares with his brother, eating his meals at his computer and typing into the early hours of the mornings. At one point, he went ten days without leaving the house, hung up on fixing a bug in his code.

Eight months after he started, he launched his site, FightHoax.com.

It is the first AI-powered algorithm that gives anyone the ability to fact check a news article in seconds. Fight Hoax gives feedback on the author, the publication and its bias, and it highlights biased language in the story and problems with the writing quality. It provides links to other stories on the same topic but from publications representing different political views.

Currently in a private testing phase, Fight Hoax is being assessed by journalists in the United States, Great Britain, and Greece. Journalists are expected to be among the site’s chief users but Tzekas says it is intended for ordinary people.

“Right now, if you think about it, politicians and journalists have the power of truth. My mission is to give normal people the power of truth—make them more powerful without the need of having journalistic skills.”

Josephine Miliza

Kenya

Working with kids to connect Kibera to the world

Josephine Miliza leads on partnerships lead at the technical training Tunapanda.  She is working to build a community network to connect health centers and elementary schools across Africa’s largest ubran slum, Kibera.