The Digital Equity Accelerator’s New Advisory Council

May 4, 2022  • Zaki Barzinji

Meet the Brain Trust for Advancing Equity

As we prepare to welcome the Digital Equity Accelerator’s first-ever cohort, we are thrilled to introduce a phenomenal group of leaders who will serve as our inaugural Advisory Council. The Accelerator will provide hands-on support to global communities as they solve critical digital equity challenges, and our diverse Council brings a wide range of experiences to help ensure we’re centering on and serving those most impacted. All of our advisors are at the forefront of advancing equity in education, healthcare, and economic opportunity across the digital space – I’m excited to introduce them today!

Meet the advisors

Penny Abeywardena's headshot. A person with long hair, wearing a jacket and long beaded necklace, stands on a balcony with their hand on their hip smiling at the camera. Behind them are buildings and a marina.The former New York City Commissioner for International Affairs, Penny Abeywardena is a global leader on diplomacy, human rights, and sustainability. She holds several board positions, including for the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships.

Shahed Amanullah's headshot. A person with a goatee and wearing glasses stands under an archway smiling at the camera.Shahed Amanullah has spent his career developing innovative approaches for shifting power and equity, often to marginalized communities. He is currently Managing Director of the investment firm Frost Capital.

Sarbani Banerjee Belur's headshot. A person with their hair pulled back, wearing earrings and a necklace, and a bindi on their forehead, stands outside smiling at the camera.An expert on the gender, social, and economic impacts of connectivity, Dr. Sarbani Banerjee Belur is increasing digital outreach to remote and rural areas of India as a Senior Project Executive Officer with the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

Jochai Ben-Avie's headshot. A person with short hair and beard who is wearing glasses and wearing a jacket and tie smiles looking at the camera.Jochai Ben-Avie‘s career has been centered at the intersection of technology and human rights, as a leader in global policy, advocacy, and philanthropy, currently serving as the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Connect Humanity.

Sampriti Ganguli's headshot. A person with medium-length hair that's tucked behind one ear and is wearing a high-necked shirt stands in front of a wall smiling at the camera.As outgoing CEO of Arabella Advisors, Sampriti Ganguli helps foundations, philanthropists, and investors who are serious about impact achieve the greatest good with their resources. She sits on the board of four nonprofits, including Third Sector Capital Partners.

Fyras Mawazini's headshot. A person with a beard and short hair wearing a collared shirt stands in front of a patterned wall hanging looking off into the distance.Fyras Mawazini has worked for more than two decades for International NGOs in several countries throughout the Middle East and Africa. In his current role as Director for Morocco and Tunisia with the Drosos Foundation, he supports the implementation of projects addressing local social challenges.

Alejandro Roark's headshot. A person with short hair wearing a jacket and tie stands outside smiling at the camera with trees and a building behind them.With nearly a decade of experience working at the local, state, and national levels, Alejandro Roark has dedicated his career to eliminating structural inequities across LGBTQIA+ inclusion, racial and social justice, and civil rights policies. Currently, he is Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at the FCC.

Susan Scott-Parker OBE's headshot. A person with short hair wearing earrings and a button-up shirt stands with their hands together smiling at the camera.Susan Scott-Parker OBE mobilizes business leadership behind disability equality. As founder of the Business Disability Forum (UK), she helped launch the first benchmarking tool to measure a corporation’s disability-related performance.

Udbhav Tiwari's headshot. A person with short hair and short beard wearing a collared shirt smiles at the camera.A public policy professional, Udbhav Tiwari works as a Senior Manager for Global Public Policy at Mozilla Foundation, where he focuses on data governance, content regulation, and connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

Maria Town's headshot. A person with medium-length hair wearing a jacket is outside in front of a hedge smiling at the camera.Maria Town works to increase the political and economic power of people with disabilities. She is the current President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, and previously served as the Director of the City of Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.

Kristi Zappie-Ferradino's headshot. A person with long hair wearing glasses and a beaded necklace stands in front of a brick wall smiling at the camera.A mission-driven leader, Kristi Zappie-Ferradino has focused her career in building and leveraging resources to advance change in literacy, youth mentoring, civic engagement, and digital inclusion. She is the Director of Programs and Initiatives at the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.


The Advisory Council will support the Accelerator in its pilot year as we assemble our first cohort of nonprofits from the United States, India, and Morocco, providing knowledge on equity issues of digital inclusion facing our target communities, as well as mobilizing their deep and broad networks. They will offer guidance on assembling the most representative cohort possible, support an inclusive program design, and help us learn and grow after our pilot is in the books. We’re bringing on even more thought leaders by also engaging the consulting firm Blue Sky Partners, who will support curriculum development, mentor management, and impact measurement for the Accelerator. They have designed and run a number of social impact accelerators, including with the City of Austin and Trinity University.

We’re eager for what’s to come. Stay tuned for other announcements we’ll be making later this spring!

Zaki Barzinji's headshot. A person with short hair and short beard wearing a suit and tie stands in front of a wall smiling at the camera.Zaki Barzinji is a Program Director for Aspen Digital, where he oversees a range of projects at the intersection of tech, policy, equity, and justice for underrepresented communities. Zaki is a public affairs leader with a decade of experience in political campaigns, public service, and policy change at the state and federal level. He served in the White House as Senior Associate Director of Public Engagement and President Obama’s liaison to Arab-Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, and other minority faiths, where he worked to amplify voices and narratives seldom represented at the highest levels of government. Before joining the White House, Zaki served as tech policy advisor and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Governor Terry McAuliffe, where he helped direct the launch of Virginia’s first open data portal and managed Governor McAuliffe’s national cybersecurity initiative for the National Governors Association. Just prior to joining The Aspen Institute, Zaki worked as the head of state & local government affairs for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where he partnered with Governors and Mayors across the country to close the digital divide, modernize tech policy, and leverage emerging technology to rebuild a more resilient and equitable digital infrastructure for all communities in a post-pandemic world.