Growing up on a farm in a rural area, my online access was a dial-up connection. Without satellite TV or even a cellular phone, 56k was my only link to the world. Using this, I taught myself basic web development and started an online business—all before 16. These skills turned out to be an invaluable foundation for my career: I've gone from web developer to UI/UX designer, and the last 8 years as a product owner working in NYC and now Silicon Valley.
My story showed me the power of having connectivity, and has led me to believe internet access is not a luxury, but a human right. As of 2019, 3.9 billion people still aren't connected to the internet. In 2017, I started moonlighting on Cause to Connect, a project to bring internet access to remote areas of Madagascar, where only 5% of the population has connectivity and the average annual income is <$500 USD. I am currently piloting several community WiFi hotspots there, one of which is already financially self sustaining, providing internet access to 80+ students for the first time. In 2019, my team and I are building a portal for distributing basic education and healthcare information in Malagasy, the local language.
This is where my passion and professional career intersect: to build a better internet with a more open web.