Naheed Hirji Keynote Speech at 2016 Peace Summit | Aga Khan Academies

Naheed Hirji Keynote Speech at 2016 Peace Summit

Naheed Hirji, Growth and Partnerships Manager at Facebook, Africa was one of the Keynote speakers at the Peace Summit 2016. Naheed has in the past worked with Microsoft, Zynga and various social enterprises that are using technology to make a positive change in the world. He currently works on growing internet penetration in Eastern and Southern Africa using Facebook’s free basics (

Naheed stirred an interesting discussion around the theme of using Internet as a tool for peace. He started off with a conversation around the question “Is internet a human right?” Students responded with some interesting claims including the fact that humans have lived without the Internet before so why can’t they now? However, some brought up the issue of censorship and how governments monitor the public, compromising privacy. A discussion on whether or not internet is a tool for peace followed. Opinion was split in the room at first. The proposers argued how awareness and fundraising for important causes can be done using social media while the opposing side argued that the internet has given birth to cyber bullying.

This discussion finally led up to Naheed sharing how he came to a conclusion about this and why he took the job at Facebook. Naheed was a technology geek growing up but wanted to make a difference using technology. When he was offered the job at Facebook, he was uncertain about the impact he would be able to make, so he used IKIGAI. IKIGAI is a Japanese concept meaning "a reason for being". Everyone, according to the Japanese, has an IKIGAI. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. IKIGAI evaluation consists of 4 questions: Are you doing something that you love? Are you doing work or deeds that the world needs or will be better for? What is it that you are really good at? And finally, is it possible to monetize this? His job was going to be to grow internet users in Africa, but how would this benefit people and the world? He thought to himself, the internet is a breeding ground for cyber bullying, spreads false information and hate speech and reduces individual privacy. He used the examples of ISIS and the conflict between Apple and the US government. However, the internet has the incredible power to connect people around the world, enable friends and families to communicate, improve job creation, education and health care levels, gives us information on our fingertips and gives everyone a voice and the power to share their opinion. If he were to help launch free basics, it would make the internet accessible to more people by providing them access to a range of free basic services like news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information, assisting them to improve their lives. He was going to be able to use technology to make a difference in the lives of billions of people. When he took the job at Facebook, he was sure he had found his IKIGAI.

He believes the internet and technology can be used as a tool for peace. All that is required is a change of attitude, being informed and critical thinking. “We must strive to become responsible citizens of the internet, break cultural, societal and political barriers and engage in respectful dialogue.” he said. He ended by sharing the idea behind, which demonstrates friendship and understanding in the most unexpected places and which is what we must aim to achieve using the internet.

By Inaara Gangji, DP1 (The Reporters)