Introducing Next Gen Tech Fellows

September 28, 2023  • Zaki Barzinji & Shanthi Bolla

Aspen Digital and Project Liberty are launching the Next Gen Tech Fellowship. It will start with a pilot group of 5 young leaders, ages 18-25, who are committed to and passionate about the impacts of new and emerging technologies on their generation.

The future of democracy will rely on informed, engaged, and empowered citizens. As digital natives who have grown up steeped in a perpetually online world, Gen-Zers and the generations that succeed them must have a direct role in reimagining our shared future, with an eye toward justice and equity for all communities. The Next Gen Tech Fellowship will train and provide a platform for young voices seeking to build an interconnected world that is accessible, safe, and inclusive — both online and off. From the promise of Web 3.0, to the unique challenges of ubiquitous AI, to the growing threats of digital hate, we need informed Gen-Z perspectives and agency more than ever.

Next Gen Tech Fellows participate in a unique program that will run from September 2023 through May 2024. The leaders will:

  • Engage in diverse programming hosted by both the Aspen Institute and Project Liberty on relevant topics
  • Access exclusive virtual 1-on-1s and tailored learning sessions with leading experts on issues including the future of artificial intelligence, data equity, the community impacts of emerging technology, cybersecurity, and web 3.0
  • Select a topic at the intersection of young people and tech to research for a final presentation in May 2024

The 5 participants in the 2023 pilot were selected from a diverse group of young leaders from across the United States, ages 18-25. Each has an intense passion for all things digital and for asserting their position as future leaders of an increasingly connected world.

Meet the Leaders

Mac Chirara is a social entrepreneur, blending his commitment to green communities with an enthusiasm for digital innovations in renewable energy. Deeply involved in science and technology research, he’s passionate about conservation initiatives and fervent about digital transformation in these sectors.

Nhaomi Lartey is a Ghanaian and African-American student who aspires to be a computer scientist, entrepreneur, and change-maker. As a 2022 Bezos Scholar, she launched “Bright Futures for All!” a personalized college and career resource at her high school to help empower her community in finding post-graduation endeavors despite the obstacles they face as an underfunded school.

Sarah Tran is a Bezos Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. In her freshman year during the COVID-19 pandemic, she co-founded Snack Break Inc., a venture-backed software company that focuses on building bitesize apps to reimagine how the next generation will communicate.

Franklin Wu is currently a freshman at Yale University studying economics and statistics & data science. His interests lie in the intersection of public policy, economics and the environment. Franklin is currently a Tobin Undergraduate Research Assistant at Yale, working on a project in the areas of climate change and economics.

Victor Ye is a social entrepreneur studying Communication at the University of Southern California. He is the founder and creator of UnTextbooked, a top-charts history podcast dedicated to crafting young people into future shapers and visionaries by unraveling the untold stories of the past and exploring mesmerizing events that continue to shape our world today.

About Aspen Digital

Aspen Digital is a nonpartisan technology and information-focused organization that brings together thinkers and doers to uncover new ideas and spark policies, processes, and procedures that empower communities and strengthen democracy. This future-focused Aspen Institute program inspires collaboration among diverse voices from industry, government, and civil society to ensure our interconnected world is accessible, safe, and inclusive – both online and off. Across its initiatives, Aspen Digital develops methods for elevating promising solutions and turning thought into networked impact.

About Project Liberty

Project Liberty is an international nonprofit accelerating the world’s transition to an open, inclusive data economy that empowers people over platforms by working to mobilize the foundation of a new internet for the common good. Project Liberty is building a global alliance for responsible technology and bringing together technologists, academics, policymakers, civil society and citizens to build a safer, healthier tech ecosystem.

Zaki Barzinji
Senior Director

Zaki Barzinji is a Senior 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.

Shanthi Bolla
Program Manager

Shanthi joined Aspen Digital as a Program Manager in fall of 2022. She works on special projects across the teams within the program to provide project management, research and operations support. Before joining Aspen Digital, Shanthi worked for 6 years in the tech industry in various public policy roles focused on stakeholder engagement at the state and local levels after beginning her career as a community organizer. Shanthi is currently based in New York City.