Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Vice President, Institutional Relations
Francesca Cesa Bianchi has worked for G3ict since its inception. She has an in-depth experience of digital inclusion issues for persons with disabilities, the CRPD, and is a frequent speaker for G3ict internationally. She oversees G3ict’s relations with international organizations, governments and academia as well as G3ict’s “CRPD Progress Report on ICT Accessibility” which measures the level of ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities around the world. She speaks fluent English, Spanish, Italian, and French. Prior to her current position, Ms. Cesa Bianchi served as Director of Public Relations for the Georgia Council for International Visitors, freelance writer for CNN Italia, and as a Carter Center-accredited election observer in Venezuela in 2003 and 2004. She is a Fellow of CIFAL Atlanta, the North American affiliate of the Decentralized Program of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) where she served as Director of its Gender Equality Program (2006-2009). A native of Milan, Italy, Ms. Cesa Bianchi graduated with a degree in political science from the Universitá degli Studi of Milan, holds a M.A. degree in communication from Georgia State University.
James Thurston, Vice President, Global Strategy and Development
James Thurston is an international technology policy leader. As G3ict’s Vice President for Global Strategy and Development, he leads the design and implementation of new worldwide advocacy strategies and programs to scale up G3ict’s global impact. He has experience applying both technology and public policy to important social and economic challenges. He has led efforts ranging from using technology to promote the inclusion and human rights of people with disabilities around the world to using technology to increase the economic competitiveness of aging industrial centers in the United States. He has broad policy and management experience in both the private and public sectors and at the federal, state, and international levels of government. Prior to joining G3ict, Mr. Thurston was Director of International Accessibility Policy at Microsoft, where he developed and executed a worldwide strategy to expand the company’s outreach on disability and technology issues to governments and NGOs around the world. He has also served as a standards leader for an international technology industry association, an economic and technology advisor to a U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate, and a senior manager for a national technology and economic development initiative of the U.S. government. Mr. Thurston holds both, a Master of Public Administration, and an M.A. in East European Studies from the University of Washington, as well as a B.A. in International Affairs from the University of Maine.
Andrea Saks, G3ict Permanent Representative to the ITU
Andrea Saks is a known advocate for ICTs for persons with disabilities. She grew in a family of two deaf parents and assisted them from an early age as their interface with the hearing world: She as responsible making doctors’ appointments, arranging guests’ visits and other appointments by using the telephone which was then inaccessible to her family without her. Her father, the late Andrew Saks, the late Robert Weitbrecht and James C. Marsters (who recently died July 2009) were the first pioneers deaf themselves, who created deaf telecommunications using surplus teletypewriters and modems that spread throughout the world. These devices were the precursors of textphones and today’s real-time text messaging. She took that role to the next level when she relocated from the US to the UK in 1972 to promote the use of textphones internationally. She worked with the British Government Post Office (then the regulator of UK telecommunications) and was granted a license for connection of text telephones on the regular telephone network. She was able to successfully lobby the U.S. FCC to allow the first transatlantic textphone conversation over the voice telephone network (1975). Her first involvement with ITU standardization activity started in 1991 and has ever since increased in scope. Self-funded, she currently attends many ITU-T study group and focus group meetings promoting the inclusion of accessibility functionality in systems being standardized by ITU, such as multimedia conferencing, cable, IPTV and NGN. After the recent creation of ITU-D Q20/1 on accessibility matters by WTDC-06, she also started attending that group and now performs as a bridge between the two sectors on accessibility for persons with disabilities. She has been a key person in the creation of all accessibility events in ITU, and currently is the convener of the recently formed joint coordination activity on accessibility and human factors, as well as the coordinator of the Internet Governance Forum’s Dynamic Coalition on Accessibility and Disability. In 2008 she was given the ITU World Telecommunication and Information Society Award and made a Laureate for her lifelong work in accessibility to telecommunications and ICTs for persons with Disabilities.
Nilofar Shamim Haja, Online Producer
Nilofar Haja joined the G3ict team in early 2011 and handles online communications, including website updates, content management, online publications and reports, social media channels, outreach and community engagement. She graduated with a B.A. in History and an M.A. in Ancient Indian Archaeology, History and Culture, from the University of Mumbai, India. She has experience in the print and digital media domains, as well as within the market research, publishing and not-for-profit management sectors.
Deepti Samant Raja, Senior Research Analyst
works on developing and editing research reports on inclusive ICTs in development such as disaster management and financial services. Samant Raja also helps facilitate knowledge exchange and partnership development for G3ict in India. Previously, Samant Raja was the Director of International Programs and a senior researcher at the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University. Blending backgrounds in Electrical and Computer Engineering (with a focus on Telecommunication) and Rehabilitation Counseling, Samant Raja brings in over nine years of experience promoting the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities with a focus on assistive and accessible technology service delivery. Samant Raja also worked for the Secretariat of the Global Partnership for Disability and Development, where she oversaw capacity building, knowledge creation, and dissemination activities to mainstream disability in development. Samant Raja has published articles and presented on inclusive employment and effective corporate practices, accessible ICTs, and access to assistive technology. She serves as an invited member on key international task forces, including the UNICEF Task Force on Assistive Technology and Children with Disabilities, and was the Co-Chair of the community of practice on Access to Justice for Persons with Disabilities of the World Bank’s Global Forum on Law, Justice and Development. Samant Raja has a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling, a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering, and a Bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering.
Nirmita Narasimhan, Global Reports Editor
Nirmita Narasimhan is Policy Director with the Centre for Internet and Society, India and works on policy research and advocacy related to IP reform and technology access for persons with disabilities. She is involved in the drafting of the Indian National Policy for Electronic Accessibility and also works closely with different departments of the Government of India to bring accessibility into their policies and programmes. On the international front, she has presented papers on ICT and accessibility at international forums like the IGF, and is a member of the G3ict publications and editorial team. She has also participated in the World Blind Union Treaty negotiations at WIPO. Her educational background includes degrees in Law, German and Music. In recognition of her work, Ms. Narasimhan received the National Award for Empowerment of Persons With Disabilities from the President of India in December 2010 and the NIVH Excellence Award from the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped in December 2011.
Pong Cruz, Reserach Fellow / Senior Research Analyst
John Paul Cruz aims to make a significant impact in the lives of people with and without disabilities through his research on disability policy, democratic institutions and processes, urban development, and the promotion of human rights instruments. As a research fellow for G3ict, Pong hopes to contribute to the development of disability-inclusive policies, particularly in the field of accessible ICT for users with disabilities. His work with G3ict entails the effective coordination and delivery of the organization’s research service, which focuses on heightening the awareness and understanding among ,multinational companies on the key role of ICT accessibility requirements in the development and promotion of their products and services. While working with G3ict, Pong also serves as a Research Associate for World Enabled’s Inclusive Cities project which focuses on the impact of global cities on the meaningful participation of people with disabilities in the society. Prior to joining G3ict, Pong was a visiting scholar at the Boalt School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley under a Fulbright fellowship where he conducted a study on the effectiveness of electoral systems for voters with disabilities in the United States in comparison with the member states of the Association of South East Asian nations (ASEAN). With a Nippon Foundation Fellowship, he obtained a master’s degree in International Affairs in Comparative and International Disability Policy from the School of International Service at American University in Washington D.C. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the National College of Public Administration and Governance at the University of the Philippines.
Viviana Montenegro, Research Analyst
Viviana Montenegro has worked for G3ict since January 2010. She has been in charge of overseeing the data collection and analysis for the CRPD Progress Report. Prior to joining G3ict, she served as Director of Economic Development at CIFAL Atlanta, the North American affiliate of the Decentralized Program of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), where she oversaw the capacity building Global Airport Programs implemented for government officials, airport authorities and businessmen from developing countries around the world. After obtaining her M.A. degree, Ms. Montenegro actively collaborated for the Public Research Institute at San Francisco State University in studies ranging from the design of surveys, data collection and analysis to report writing. Ms. Montenegro holds a M.A. degree in Public Administration from San Francisco State University and a Diploma in Business Management and Administration from University of Chile, Chile.