‘Gbenga Sesan was a Non-Resident Fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab (2019-2020, 2020-2021).
‘Gbenga is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative, a pan-African social enterprise working on digital inclusion and digital rights through its offices in Cameroon, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia. Prior to starting Paradigm Initiative, ‘Gbenga led the Lagos Digital Village, a joint project of Junior Achievement of Nigeria, Microsoft and Lagos State Government. Originally trained as an Electronic & Electrical Engineer at Obafemi Awolowo University, he completed Executive Education programs at Lagos Business School, New York Group for Technology Transfer, Oxford University, Harvard University, Stanford University, Santa Clara University and University of the Pacific. ‘Gbenga’s consulting experience includes assignments completed for numerous institutions, including Microsoft, Harvard University and United Nations agencies, among others, in over 30 countries. A Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year and former member of the United Nations Committee of eLeaders on Youth and ICT, he is a CyberStewards Fellow, Crans Montana Forum Fellow, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow, Ashoka Fellow, Our Common Future Fellow and Cordes Fellow. ‘Gbenga served as a member of the Presidential committees on Harmonization of Information Technology, Telecommunications and Broadcasting Sectors (2006) and Roadmap for the Achievement of Accelerated Universal Broadband Infrastructure and Services Provision (2013), and was listed by CNN as one of the Top 10 African Tech Voices on Twitter and by Ventures Africa as one of 40 African Legends Under 40. ‘Gbenga is married to Temilade Sesan, PhD, an expert on Energy Poverty and Development.
‘Gbenga Sesan understands that you cannot have digital rights without digital inclusion–what could it possibly mean, he says, to protect digital rights if people are not digitally included? While the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the awareness of the general public for the need for both digital inclusion and rights, there is still a long way to go. With work, school, and much of social life moving online for the past year and a half–and to at least some extent moving forward–everyone has become more dependent on technology. Sesan worries, however, that this is creating a technology skills gap–especially in our youth and for our elderly–that we will need to work hard to fill. His central project, the Ayeta Toolkit for African digital rights activists developed under the Paradigm Initiative, goes some ways to bridging this gap by safeguarding digital rights defenders across the global South.
Sesan found the intensity of his project growing as the pandemic signified its necessity. The fellowship in particular, he says, took on a new meaning during this time; with all the fellows “trapped” in the same new kind of space–the digital space–their geographic differences and cultural protocol prerequisites to conversation melted away. In a way that would not have been the case otherwise, Sesan says it felt like they were all walking in the same shoes, traversing the same ground. For those who are connected, they could feel more connected than ever while working to ensure connection and rights for those without.