A Special Power for Good Tech

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A Special Power for

GOOD TECH Tech Audits Tech • The Internet’s Immune System Block Bias • Internet Users’ Union • Cleaning Up Tech’s Mess

Ever yone A Changemaker ™

A SPECIAL POWER In an everything-changing and connected world, our synaptic wiring —and therefore our tech—must be brilliantly good, even more than efficient. (See facing page.) Social entrepreneurs are critical. More and more are stepping up (see the following pages). Each is powerful: Three-quarters of Ashoka Fellows change policy at the national and/or international level within five years of election. This is not enough. There is a special power that is far, far more persuasive: The Ashoka community and the new ways we have discovered to tip the world. Ashoka is the global community of the world’s truly leading social entrepreneurs (and other close partners). It is a community of trust and many omnidirectional, important collaborations. Its magnetic attraction and impact multiply as (1) its team of teams design grows ever more connections and sinews; and (2) its leadership in the “everyone a changemaker” turning point gives the community the opportunity to midwife big history. Moreover, in the last few years, Ashoka has learned how to make these huge changes. First, define where society must go, largely by mapping the highly predictive patterns in the Fellows’ work. Then the Ashoka team helps some of the world’s most powerful organizations (e.g., publishers, unions, metro areas) see the new reality and change their core strategy in time. They become partners with Ashoka and one another. This brings previously unimagined leverage.

Ashoka helps some of the world’s most powerful organizations…see the new reality and change their core strategy in time.”

There are many more Ashoka Fellows working to make technology work for the good of all. Scan the QR code to find them.

GOOD TECH Everything is changing faster and faster. Everything is connected. The almost opposite, familiar world of repetition is in an exponential death dive. These are the facts, our only reality. To succeed, we must get the thought framing technologies right. Such a profound (and exponentially accelerating) transformation requires us to change almost everything—from the goals of growing up to learning to lead in ways Henry Ford could not imagine. There are two key tests: (1) What proportion of the people in a group (school, workplace, community of faith, etc.) are confident, practiced changemakers? and (2) Is the group a team of teams with an “everyone a changemaker” culture? The individuals and groups who have adapted are doing very well, and those who have not are being crushed. This “the new inequality” explains both the world’s increasing income inequality and its fast metastasizing “us versus them” politics. Technology is critical. How otherwise could new, constantly morphing, local/global teams of teams instantly organize around each new need? How otherwise could we manage vast, multiplying flows of information so that each person and group gets what they need? And can trust it. Moreover, as change accelerates, solutions have shorter and shorter half-lives—which makes the design of our decision-making architecture ever more key. In other words, technology now provides our species much of its nervous system and is taking on key roles of the brain. Our future depends very significantly on our making it brilliantly efficient—and, more important, brilliantly truthful, ethical, and values-supporting. Not surprisingly more and more of the world’s top social entrepreneurs (heavily Ashoka Fellows)—are focusing here. The most important work focuses on helping humankind develop the best decision-making frameworks and systems and the Good Tech they require. Others understand these new ways and use them to help solve some of society’s most difficult problems e.g., untruths. These Tech for Good contributions, of course, also strengthen Good Tech. This paper introduces a few Fellows helping build Good Tech. (An earlier paper focuses chiefly on Tech for Good. See facing page for a QR code.)


How Brazil crowdsourced a landmark law: When the time came to draft an important new “Internet Bill of Rights,” Brazilians took matters into their own hands.

Brazilian Fellow Ronaldo Lemos led the open, collaborative (largely online) process that led to the drafting and enactment of one of the world’s first constitutions for the internet, his country’s Marco Civil da Internet. It defines many of the fundamental rights people must have in the new digital era, including privacy, freedom of speech, net neutrality, and the role of the internet in strengthening citizenship. He then helped spread it to other countries and catalyzed complementary changes in patent law and open education.


There are many, many threats to an open, accessible, and private internet. Tiffiniy Cheng (elected in 2016) and partners (including Nick Reville (elected 2009) and their organization, The Internet Defense League (IDL), have shown how to use the internet to save the internet and thereby protect online rights and continue to make possible true, bottom-up civic engagement. The IDL now has over 1.5 million members clustered into microteams and local chapters across most of the continents. The IDL has had a number of dramatic successes. When the cable industry sought to end net neutrality through regulations, four million IDL calls overwhelmed the regulators on IDL’s Internet Slow-down Day. One hundred thousand websites displayed the spinning icon of a stalled internet connection. The industry lost. The net needs IDL. “The protests against Sopa and Acta have shown that internet users can influence politics...The IDL wants to build on this success of grassroots activism on the Net. In the future, it should be easier to draw attention to protests. Everyone who has a website can join in.” –DIE ZEIT

Source: A Special Power for Tech For Good booklet (see QR code on page 2).


building infrastructures that may one day mean that good people will go to jail without deserving it.”

Gemma Galdon-Clavell

Gemma wanted a career in social justice, and in her 20s worked as a researcher for the Transnational Institute, whose mission is to build a just, democratic, and sustainable future. Gemma consulted with governments in Asia and Latin America on social issues. It was a heady experience for a young person; but, she recalls “I was doing too much and thinking too little. Getting on all those planes and meeting all those presidents and changing things felt really great. But it came to a point where I didn’t know why we were doing what we were doing, so I wanted to stop.”

Gemma Galdon-Clavell developed and disseminated a model for conducting audits of artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital systems, analogous to the way certified public accountants audit financial systems, to ensure they maintain ethical standards and serve the public. Now a recognized global leader in the new field of digital ethics, she has persuaded key governments and more and more businesses they need to use the audits and to require others to do so as well. Her path to this role was unusual. Gemma grew up mistrustful of data collection. Her grandparents fled Spain in 1939, crossing the Pyrenees on foot, to escape Franco. They returned to Barcelona in the 1960s, but Gemma’s grandfather was jailed whenever Franco came to town, “just in case” she said, because he was on a list of political opponents of the regime. “So I grew up distrustful of lists,” Gemma said. “Then I realized lists are databases. So I distrust databases. That’s why I work on the ethics of technology, because I am fully aware we are

After a period researching public policy on urban video surveillance and policing, in 2012 she founded Ethicas as a home for her ideas and work. It has since successfully created rapidly growing demand for digital ethics and trustworthy AI in social services, healthcare, finance, government, education, cybersecurity, and more.

For Galdón, a cool future at the intersection between security and data is one in which technology is at the service of the real social problems of humanity. It’s a future in which we do not develop technologies uncritically, without knowing why we develop them or what is being done with our data.”


Gemma is the architect of the Algorithmic Audit Framework, an AI-based technology which enables detection of and correction of algorithmic bias. It’s the basis for Eticas’ automated audits (which also include some in-person review) of the AI systems businesses and others use to make decisions. These audits are a valuable risk mitigation tool because, when an algorithm renders a wrong or discriminatory decision, its owner risks business, legal, and regulatory costs. By tapping those concerns, Gemma was able to extend the reach of digital auditing and build an ethic that AI systems should serve the public interest. Eticas also consults on the AI systems of strategic public sector organizations and international financial institutions such as the City Council of Barcelona, the Inter-American Development Bank, the EU Commission, and Banco Internacional de Desarrollo (BID). For example, Eticas manages BID’s algorithm audits that help it assess the ethics of the projects they finance. Eticas’ early followers are increasingly using Gemma’s methodology to audit their partners, thereby accelerating the model’s spread. Eticas is also building and growing a network of academics, politicians, tech companies, and industry bodies to raise awareness and enrich debate about digital ethics, and ultimately impact policy. However, policy must ultimately rely on tools like Gemma’s AI-based audits that can reliably read the world’s fast-multiplying, invisible algorithms. “We need to be mindful of the information and technology infrastructures that we build, because they can make us lose everything we care for,”

Gemma debating security with a government official.

Gemma said. “I see it every day in my work. There are debates and battles for fundamental rights, civil rights, that we have won in our laws and public debates, that we are losing in the technical specifications—whether it’s algorithmic discrimination or building a way of deciding that goes against everything we believe in. No one can audit [it], because we don’t understand technology, as a society we see technology as a black box.” Gemma sees a direct connection between her grandparents resisting dictatorship and her own mission of protecting rights which are threatened in the digital age. “This is also my way of telling my story and helping build technical infrastructures that contribute to equality, peace and justice.”

Galdon-Clavell’s [work] highlights how AI-powered algorithms have been used as a ‘bias diagnosis’ tool, showing how the same technology can be repurposed to re-enforce positive social outcomes if the motivation is there.”



Apple’s mobile browsers (Chrome, Safari and others). (You can still see his name in the legal notes of smart phones.) He was, among other creations, also an early leader of the opensource movement to make technical standards and implementations free and available to all. Alp made his mark on the tech industry in his 20s. He branched out because he felt he was serving profit, not democracy, and brought his skills to Turkey, where social movements and civil protests were burgeoning.

The first thing the human immune system does when a virus invades is instantly to spot and define it and then connect to and trigger the right defenses. That’s what Alp’s NetBlocks does for the internet. It is successful because Alp is a rare combination of a great social entrepreneur and a science/tech genius. Born in the UK to Turkish parents, he mastered computer science very young, scoring a record A-Level university entrance qualification in Computer Science at age 11. Alp recalls, “As a teenager, I experienced censorship first-hand” from a company seeking to avoid embarrassment. “But the media covered the incident, and I realized that there was a possibility to push back.” He went on to study AI in college in the 2000s, the early days of machine learning, gravitating towards the interface between humans and technology. While still in college, he helped create the first versions of Google’s and

There he experienced frequent internet slowdowns. When two bombs went off amid a crowded peace rally in Ankara, killing nearly 100 people and wounding hundreds more, the government blocked internet access. “In the aftermath of the attack, communications were disrupted,” Alp said. “We were unable to call for assistance, and unable to contact the media. Victims suffered, loved ones remained out of touch, and disinformation spread. That day I produced our first technical alert, and the project was born.” He developed and refined the idea in Turkey through TurkeyBlocks, but he knew from the moment of the Ankara blast that he was taking on a global purpose. The system that Alp developed constantly monitors the internet’s connections and working infrastructure, e.g., cell towers. It spots slowdowns or interruptions as they happen—and instantly determines the cause(s), be it technical failure, cybersecurity threat, or government intervention.


Netblocks tracks connectivity in countries around the world by scanning the internet for communication devices—routers, servers, mobile phone towers— and keeping a database of those known to be online in each territory... NetBlocks has been able to detect the disconnection of [Iranian] internet devices with fixed line connections as well as the loss of service at mobile phone masts—which demonstrates that wireless mobile internet is also disrupted.”

“We built and connected many regional and global systems to create a picture that tells us what’s happening,” Alp said of the NetBlocks global monitoring system. “Findings are validated so over time they have earned the trust of policy makers and the media.” It provides this information through multiple channels (from email to broad TV syndication) to the news media (credible information about interruptions is often key to stories, be they about hurricanes or elections), governments, human rights and free press citizen organizations, lawyers, crisis managers, and both affected citizens (e.g., those relying on the web to navigate wildfires or floods) and the interested public. Moreover, it continues to provide all these people continuing reports 24 hours a day. This allows everyone to track changes—for good or ill—and whence they come.

NetBlocks describes itself as “an independent, nonpartisan civil society group” that is “a solutions hub working at the intersection of digital rights, cybersecurity, and internet governance.” Indeed, it does much more than spot and define viruses. It is helping all those who want to see information flow freely, truthfully, and equally to all (and to avoid cybersecurity threats and after harmful fevers) work together. The first step is seeing the problems clearly and in time. Here’s an example of how Alp’s system works:

Alp Toker, executive director of the internet monitoring organization NetBlocks, confirmed that the Venezuelan state-run internet provider CanTV has blocked two addresses that Airtm uses, repeating a pattern first seen against the company in 2018.“The two restrictions show an ongoing effort to limit access to alternative financial services,” Toker said.”

NetBlocks is one of the world’s most cited digital rights organizations, and Alp himself is a trusted source. Both are frequently quoted by mainstream media outlets worldwide (e.g., the Associated Press, BBC, CNN) and by governments (e.g., a recent U.S. State Department human rights report). In fact, NetBlocks works with a lot of governments, e.g. to build resilient cybersecurity policies that respect individual rights.


Alp holds a “Digital Security” workshop at a Journalism school in Turkey.

At the same time, it works with citizen groups and attorneys challenging government interference in the internet. It conducts hundreds of capacity building sessions regarding how best to handle disruptions and how to use data in court.

Combined, the effect of Internet Shutdowns on the economy is staggering. According to the internet monitoring NGO, Netblocks, each day of an internet blackout costs the Ethiopian government nearly $4.5 Million.”

Its help often proves key. For example, on June 3, 2019, when paramilitary forces attacked Sundanese pro-democracy demonstrators in Khartoum, the internet was almost completely shut down. Armed with NetBlocks data documenting the blackout, Attorney Abdel-Adheem Hassan filed suit

against telecom provider Zain Sudan. The court ordered it to restore internet services immediately. As the internet has become a critical source of information and connection for over half the world’s people, assured access to a truthful, trustworthy internet is emerging as a new/ reasserted human right. Yet, in 33 countries the number of deliberate internet shutdowns has been increasing. (However, over the last two years in Alp’s first country, Turkey, such shutdowns have decreased.) Some governments view internet disruption as a necessary means of stopping misinformation, hate speech, or violence. But research shows that internet shutdowns correlate with increased violence, because they leave people feeling more isolated and anxious. In emergencies ranging from civil unrest to natural disasters, the internet is a lifeline. Blockages prevent people from monitoring the situation, staying in touch, and making informed decisions. They also block emergency responders’ access to one another, to GPS, and to the public. And they undermine socially essential rights


—including freedom of speech and assembly. And they may be used to restrict voting, undermine opposition candidates, and subvert elections. Given Alp, the fast evolution of technology, and the fact that society’s new reality is an everything-changing and everything-interconnected world that needs everyone to be an empowered changemaker, NetBlocks’ purpose becomes even more urgent. Its own accelerating rate of change is encouraging. For example, it now calculates the economic costs of shutdowns (and associated losses of tax revenues). This information palpably weakens the arguments of those pressing for shutdowns. Second, it now increasingly links internet problems to associated stories, be they floods or elections, and it uses powerful new visualization tools to do so. It has also greatly increased its voice: Alp says these new, accessible formats help “shift what had once been a technical endeavor into a human one that advises and changes lives and prospects for the better.”

Moreover, to disseminate the information more widely, NetBlocks evolved into a content platform in its own right. In late 2019, NetBlocks launched its own live emergency streaming and broadcast platform, syndicated internationally via existing satellite TV networks reaching audiences of over two million concurrent viewers. “In the space of a couple of years, an amazing global community and cutting-edge technology helped us bring information that wasn’t readily available before to directly address social issues each day,” said Alp. “I dream of a world where each individual has the necessary tools and knowledge to defend their digital rights online.” That the world can now draw on Alp’s immune system makes the realization of that dream more likely.

A NetBlocks report from April 2019 shows website restrictions in Egypt.



protest. They were mostly students of color. Their protest was peaceful but was treated (and covered by media) as a riot. SWAT teams swept into the school to break it up. Over 30 students were injured from being beaten with police batons or slammed against police cars. 25 were arrested. Yeshi and her friends tried to address school board meetings to talk about what had occurred and the racial bias it illustrated, but they were thrown out. So she helped survey 600 students across her city who had witnessed school arrests, and presented the results in a comic book, Tell It Like It Is: Miami Youth Speak Out. It is still used today by advocates across the country.

Data scientist and social entrepreneur Yeshimabeit (“Yeshi”) Milner is building and leading a broad-based movement of data professionals and community leaders working to unravel systemic biases in algorithms that disadvantage people of color. Yeshi’s interest in data activism for racial justice dates back to her middle school days in Miami, when she was suspended for three days for talking back to her sixth-grade technology teacher. Yeshi was devastated – but the episode led to a discovery. Later, while researching school suspensions, she found that Black students were four times as likely to be suspended as white students. At a neighboring school, where the majority of the students were Haitian and African-American, the school vice principal put a 14-year-old in a chokehold. Yeshi was 14 herself at the time, and she helped friends organize a

The survey effort assembled new, unbiased data showing that the students of color did the same things as white students but were punished disproportionately. One result of all those suspensions and expulsions: Black students were referred to the juvenile justice system three times as often as white students. Yeshi attended Brown University, studying data collection and analysis.

Yeshimabeit with panel on Data for Equity: The power of Data to Promote Justice at Harvard’s Kennedy School.


After graduating, she returned to Miami and applied her skills to investigating disproportionately high Black infant mortality rates. Armed with data she collected from 300 new moms, she helped change neonatal practices at the country’s largest public hospital. The hospital revamped its child health program and brought in a new team from across the country. “Data is a powerful tool for social change,” says Yeshi. “It has the power to obfuscate, to hide biases, to conceal, and even to deceive. But at the same time, depending on whose hands it’s in, depending on how it’s used, it can be a powerful tool to reveal what’s not working, what’s harmful, and what needs to be done…. Data is protest, data is accountability and data is collective action.” In 2016, she cofounded Data for Black Lives (D4BL), a network of data scientists, tech experts, and mathematicians, working collaboratively with community organizers, educators, and changemakers. D4BL bridges the disparate worlds of tech, where very few Black and Latinx people and communities of color. D4BL recognizes that data systems including machine learning, statistical modeling, and data visualization can be powerful instruments for fighting bias and empowering communities. But data systems they can also easily encode or develop biases that discriminate against and oppress communities of color. The algorithms behind predictive policing, risk-based sentencing, and mortgage lending are all well-known areas of concern.

Most people would agree that society should have a way to decide who is a danger to others. But replacing a prejudiced human cop or judge with algorithms that merely conceal those same prejudices is not the answer. If there is even a chance they perpetuate racist practices, they should be pulled.”

D4BL helps community leaders become data literate and see how to use this power for their communities. It also connects them to data scientists who help make cumbersome public datasets more accessible and actionable. At the same time, it heightens awareness of racial bias in algorithms among tech firms and other industries that collect and use data. In the process it recruits data professionals, including at major technology firms, who want to see change to volunteer for D4BL. D4BL’s network of community leaders, racial justice advocates, tech workers, data scientists, and mathematicians is 4,000 strong and growing. They convene face to face at an annual D4BL conference at MIT and connect every day virtually via D4BL’s digital switchboard. D4BL also presses the industry for greater data transparency to help solve problems that disproportionately affect communities of color, such as gun violence, mental health, and vulnerability to natural disasters.


Because D4BL’s tech/community approach is so effective, its Washington, DC, first office has been joined by five other major U.S. cities, with twelve more plus four countries on three continents in the pipeline. They organize locally, and collaborate with one another and D4BL’s technology volunteers globally. In the Pittsburgh hub, volunteer data scientists are mining data to uncover the reasons for racial disparities there, including a higher Black maternal mortality rate than whites in 97 percent of American cities, high incarceration rates, and what prison services Black inmates can and can’t access in the pandemic. Their plan is to make these data sets available to existing community-based organizations, enabling them to advocate for better policies. COVID-19 posed an urgent challenge (and opportunity) to apply D4BL’s community strengthening ability to find and use data to make hidden patterns visible and thereby change policy and level the playing field. D4BL found major under-reporting of COVID19’s incidence among Black people. This led to fewer resources allocated for care in those communities, which in turn contributed to disproportionately high mortality rates. “In early April, we knew about the disproportionate impact on Black communities, from talking to folks in our network,” said Yeshi, “but very few states were reporting cases by race.” Yeshi and D4BL campaigned to change that, working with local officials and data officers in cities and states, and launched its own new data building tool that automatically gleans data from every open data website in every state.

This has succeeded in getting COVID19 data widely reported by race. Today the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color is well documented, well known. Hospitalization rates for people of color are four times that of the white population —with worse outcomes. This has led to significant policy change, including regarding data. The American Medical Association and many states now report more accurately and have taken corrective steps.

Data for Black Lives has started a Covid-19 tracker project with the aim of visualizing the impact of the pandemic on Black communities. What Milner calls the “datafication of society” is going on all around us. But the fight to access data on racial inequality and ensure that the information we do collect represents all people continues.”

As the world moves rapidly into the era of machine learning/artificial intelligence, the need for D4BL’s scientist/ community alliance grows apace. When machines replace humans, there is the possibility of avoiding human prejudice. However, real progress requires that the new algorithms not embed bias either in how they are created or as a result of constructs machines develop as they learn. Take the key and long-troubled area


of mortgage lending. It is key because home ownership is the chief way most families build wealth. Not being able to get a mortgage closes this door. Redlining was banned 50 years ago. But bias continues. In 2019, 16 percent of Black families who applied for mortgages were turned down versus 7 percent for white families. White families are 75 percent more likely to own their home than Black families. Here’s an example of how machine learning can err. A borrower’s wealth may in fact reflect generations of wealth accumulation. D4BL is engaged on all these fronts — from analyzing patterns to devel­ oping ways to monitor AI algorithms to developing a model mortgage algorithm. “We work at multiple levels,” says Yeshi. “At the federal level, we’re trying to hold the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) accountable. We talk to fintech. We work with communities, and we are re-thinking mortgage underwriting algorithms.”

industries, organizations, companies who are coming forward to be volunteers, to spend their time to support us and our partners on different projects…Now it’s up to us to turn the pain and rawness of this moment into purpose and long-term change.”

Data for Black Lives provides a critical space for intersectional conversation by bringing together community organizers, research scientists, and other stakeholders to reflect on how machine learning can be a powerful tool for combating bias, while also demonstrating the ways that unfairness in machine learning systems can have widespread negative impact for many, and in particular, communities of color”


D4BL contributes to local, state, and national policymaking, for example by offering trainings and briefings on digital bias to those involved in policy issues, from community leaders to Senators and staff on Capitol Hill. At the intersection of what she calls “the datafication of society,” and the “moment of reckoning and revealing” amid the pandemic alongside the struggle for social and racial justice, Yeshi is optimistic. “I’m excited to see we’ve got an influx of so many different tech workers, folks who work in different


Cleaning Up Tech’s Mess Tech can’t be good if it does not protect the environment. It is a giant energy consumer. It uses dangerous materials. It can help everyone grasp environmental facts or it can profit from falsehood and fantasy. And there is ever-more polluting dangerous e-waste. There are communities of Ashoka Fellows working on all these dimensions of tech’s environmental challenge. For example, Emmanuel Vincent’s work is mobilizing scientists to call out untruths. This section introduces you to three Ashokans from three continents working on e-waste. Each is powerful; together they, and others working on e-waste, and many more in connecting areas are far, far more powerful.


partners with other nonprofits such as Bali Focus to ramp up nationwide recycling efforts and campaigns. Together, his team is creating a culture of mindful consumerism while activating other young people to step up and protect the planet. When he began researching the issue, Rafa was shocked to discover that, despite the severe health risks of e-waste to people and the environment, technology companies and the Indonesian government were doing nothing. He decided to act: He started by installing 5 drop boxes at his school as well as his mother’s and

Fascinated by tech, Rafa J, an Ashoka Young Changemaker, began to question what happens to trashed electronics and researched the topic for a class project in fifth grade. This research escalated into publishing a book to teach children and families about electronic waste (e-waste), and then into a youth-led social venture called EwasteRJ. Today, his team of young changemakers educates the public about recycling, coordinates an electronic recycling system, and

Meeting with school students, Rafa builds support for e-waste recyclying and recruits EwasteRJ agents.


Rafa with one of his school e-waste drop boxes.

grandfather’s workplaces, enabling people to properly dispose of their old or broken electronics. When the drop boxes proved a success, he felt encouraged and launched EwasteRJ. Starting in his hometown of Jakarta, Rafa formed a network of young changemakers, “EwasteRJ agents.” They have helped spread the movement and collect e-waste through drop boxes in their communities and across a number of cities. Recognizing that this was not enough to change people’s behavior, Rafa began appearing on local TV and radio stations and developed a social media presence to educate more people about responsible e-waste recycling and to encourage policy changes. He also published a second book about how to manage battery waste. In just 3 months, the team collected almost half a ton of e-waste for proper disposal. Since then, their movement has attracted government support and has led to the establishment of an electronic waste division in the Jakarta environmental office. EwasteRJ and its team now has expanded to 9 Indonesian cities.

“Continuing the echoes of the E-Waste Drop Box movement that was promoted by RJ several years ago, the Jakarta Environment Agency is now providing these electronic ‘trash bins’ at several points in Jakarta.”

Elected an Ashoka Young Changemaker, Rafa is now also an active co-leader in the “Everyone a Changemaker” movement. He has, for example, co-led two Ashoka Your Kids sessions. They help parents understand that, in an everything-changing new reality, their kids can only succeed in life if they are changemakers, i.e. if they have Rafa’s superpower. The sessions include simple how-tos. Rafa’s mother, a key ally in his journey, has joined Your Kids sessions with her son. Together, they created the first-ever Parenting Changemaker Challenge at Ashoka to inspire parents to create a culture of changemaking in their families.



Pranshu is helping India keep electronic waste out of landfills by normalizing responsible recycling of e-waste throughout the entire e-waste value chain. Karo Sambhav, which means “Make Possible,” is guiding the e-waste industry to meet the national standards set by Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) compliance laws, which require manufacturers to safeguard public health throughout their product’s life cycle. Karo Sambhav’s programs engage all stakeholders in the e-waste value chain to ensure that these laws are met, from children who plunge their hands into buckets of chemicals to executives of Fortune 500 companies—bringing them into a common framework that prioritizes healthy people and a clean environment. India is the fourth-largest producer of e-waste in the world, generating over 2 million tons a year. With one of the fastest-growing electronics industries in the world, an expanding middle class who can afford electronics, and

government mandates pushing for a “Digital India,” e-waste is expected to grow more than 20 percent per year over the next decade. This problem is exacerbated by illegal “dumping” from other countries who take advantage of the low cost of recycling in India. Throughout India, Karo Sambhav has installed drop boxes where people can discard their unwanted electronics. Anyone can use Karo Sambhav’s website to look up the closest drop box in their area, which accepts specified categories of electronic waste, such as laptops, routers, ink cartridges, printers, and cell phones. This e-waste is then collected and taken to registered recyclers where it is safely and legally processed. This system legitimizes all segments of the value chain and fosters a sense of pride in responsibly recycling e-waste.

Karo Sambhav engages with a diverse audience across the country to bring about a change in their attitude toward e-waste management via awareness, training and engagement programmes. It works with schools, offices, RWAs [Resident Welfare Associations] and [the] informal sector to encourage responsible management of e-waste.” THE TIMES OF INDIA

Pranshu also reaches out to the larger society—including offices, government


institutions, schools, universities, hospitals and many other stakeholders. He designed an activity-based curriculum to educate students and teachers about sustainable e-waste management, which currently reaches more than 2,500 schools across India—over 121,000 students. For bulk consumers, Pranshu offers awareness programs to employees so they can become champions of responsible recycling within their companies. Over 500 corporations are actively involved in his network. Karo Sambhav has established its presence in 29 states, 3 union territories, and 68 cities and is working with several top companies as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), With over 30 corporate partners, including Apple, Dell, and HP he delivers customized EPR programs to help them become leaders in the field. Since 2017, Karo Sambhav has taught over 3 million people the importance of responsible e-waste management and collected thousands of tons for safe recycling. Pranshu has also collaborated on research with the World Bank to establish best practices for e-waste recycling. He helps the Bank spread those standards to many other countries.

Karo Sambhav has established its presence in 29 states, 3 union territories, and over 60 cities and is working with several top companies as part of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).”


PARO-CI makes it possible to develop and implement the best practices in municipal waste reductions, recycling, and closed-loop economic systems. They have training programs to improve skills of SMEs relating to equipment and technique appropriate to recycling e-waste.”

Evariste Aohoui has developed an innovative circular economy model that positions electronic and electrical equipment waste (3EW) as a niche of opportunity and wealth that can support a green economy and create jobs. His organization, PARO-CI (meaning Waste Sanitation and Recycling Program of Cote d’Ivoire), uses a multipronged approach to dismantle the societal misconceptions about scrap dealers, improve upon poor 3EW management, and nurture community economic growth. Evariste brings all the elements of the e-waste value


chain together, greatly improving efficiency, and thereby turning e-wastes from problem to products and increasing the income of 6,000 scrap dealers/ workers 50 percent. The United Nations Environment Programme confirms that e-wastes are a serious problem for Cote d’Ivoire and other countries in the region. And it estimates that the amount of e-waste will double every 12 years. This means rapidly rising environmental and health damage given the complex, varied, and often toxic materials involved. This is a threat especially for those working with e-waste. One strand of Evariste’s approach is persistent public education, both to build support and to warn. It also has helped him recruit unemployed young people to become PARO-CI representatives. He has, in effect, built a modern e-waste collection, processing and marketing industry for Cote d’Ivoire. Now three-quarters of the country’s 8,000 scrap dealers/workers are organized in the Association of Modern Breakage Scrap Dealers of Cote d’Ivoire (AFECAMCI) and have seen their daily income increase by 50 percent. PARO-CI has also trained more than 2,500 informal electronic and electrical equipment waste workers across the country. In parallel, Evariste has built up the necessary operating infrastructure and marketing arrangements. PARO-CI has opened 17 collection spots in six cities. Once material is collected, the system depollutes the discarded electronic devices and separates the raw materials, such as plastic, copper, silver, aluminum, etc. 3EW that cannot

A technician moves materials to be refurbished and recycled in a PARO-CI facility.

be refurbished is dismantled, packaged, and sent to technical partners and markets in Europe that would otherwise be inaccessible to local scrap dealers. Backed by negotiated prices with these institutions, Evariste has established a fair income redistribution system for all involved. Evariste turned a mess into a well-organized, comprehensive system that ranges from education all the way through to global and local marketing. Moreover, the workers are motivated, far safer, and earn far more. Not surprisingly, this approach has become an international model. It has spread to Togo and launches have begun in Senegal and Cameroon.

Through a set of objective-oriented activities, in three years’ time, the organization has come to convert more than 3 million people into environment friendly people. The recycling platform helps collect about 1 ton of used equipment per month. The project created job opportunities and keeps the environment clean from chemical and hazardous waste.”


A SPECIAL POWER Google is a company that believes deeply in entrepreneurship. And this is a company that believes deeply in the power of information. We don’t think there’s another organization that combines these two things in a more compelling way than Ashoka.”

GOOGLE My network has expanded so much since I became an Ashoka Fellow. Before it would take me a very long time to get significant alliances and reliable working partners. And now that I’m part of Ashoka, that has changed a lot. I think Ashoka helped me to understand things from a bigger perspective and from this point of view where I’m not alone in this world and I’m not the first one who is traveling this road. And there are a lot of people who can help. Ashoka has been a catalyzer for my project, in terms of impact.”


Fellow from Mexico

Discover other Ashoka Fellows working to make technology work for the good of all. Scan the QR code to the left to find them in our previous Special Power booklet, A Special Power for Tech for Good.

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