Meet the mentors

Thomas Basikolo

Program Officer, International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Thomas BASIKOLO is Programme Officer in the Telecommunication Standardization Policy Department of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB). He coordinates and manages the ITU AI/ML in 5G Challenge and was an advisor to the ITU-T Focus group on Autonomous Networks. Prior to joining ITU, he worked as a Research Engineer in the Engineering Department of Microwave Factory Co., Ltd, Tokyo, Japan.

He received a PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Yokohama National University, Japan. He is recipient of multiple Best Paper Awards, the IEEE AP–S Japan Student Award and the Young Engineer of the year award by IEEE AP–S Japan in 2018.

He has co-authored peer-reviewed journal and conference papers, predominantly in the areas wireless communications and antenna engineering. He serves as a Reviewer of IEEE and IEICE Journals. His interests includes, machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence and network science, and their applications in wireless networks as well as how technology can be used to advance the UN SDGs.

Anusha Dandapani

Chief Data & Analytics Officer, United Nations International Computing Centre (UNICC)

Anusha Dandapani serves as the Chief Data & Analytics Officer at United Nations International Computing Centre. In this role, she is responsible for creating and overseeing the growth of Data and Analytics Services for UNICC. Anusha advises and partners with other UN organizations, Industry and Academia on solving their business problems by leveraging Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Data Analytics, Data Engineering, Data Science offerings and capabilities.

Previously, Anusha was a Data Science lead at Barclays, where she led several strategic initiatives related to electronic surveillance and financial crime compliance. She was responsible for end-to-end management from requirements to working with the program management and collaborating with data scientists and machine learning teams for delivery. Anusha has been working in the financial services industry since 2004. Anusha is an adjunct and teaches a course on Data Visualization and Visual Analytics.

Anusha was listed as Global Data Power Women List for 2023, 2022 and Data IQ 100 USA in 2023.

Gerd Dercon

Head of the Soil and Water Management & Crop Nutrition Laboratory, Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture

Gerd Dercon is a soil and crop scientist with over 30 years of experience in research and development for land, water, and nutrient management. He holds a PhD in Soil Science (tillage soil erosion modelling in the Andes of Ecuador), an MSc in Irrigation Engineering and an MSc in Agricultural Engineering (Soil Science and Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture) from the University of Leuven, Belgium. He has worked in various regions of the world, from Africa and Asia to Europe and Latin America.

As the Head of the Soil and Water Management & Crop Nutrition Laboratory at the joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, he leads a team of experts in developing, adapting, and disseminating isotopic and related techniques for improving land and water management and crop nutrition. He also provides technical support and guidance to countries and partners on the use of these techniques for addressing challenges such as climate change, soil conservation, carbon sequestration, and environmental pollution. He is passionate about using research to trigger development and enhance food security and environmental sustainability.

Radia Funna

Futurist and creator of the xHuman theory | Vice Chair, ITU FG-MV WG1, General and WG6, Security, Data & PII Protection

​Radia Funna is an internationally recognized theorist whose xHuman theory explores the impact of frontier technology on people, institutions, and societal structures. She is the founder and principal at Build n Blaze, a 12-year-old consulting firm advising on strategy, policy, and transformation in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Radia holds leadership positions blending emerging technology and policy, most recently in metaverse related standardization at ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector’s Focus Group on metaverse, where she is Vice Chair of both the General Working Group and the Working Group on Security, Data & Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Protection; and Chair of the Task Groups on Implications for people in the metaverse; and Building confidence and security in the metaverse including PII protection. She is a member of Stimson Center’s Alfred Lee Loomis Innovation Council (a forum for technology leaders and policymakers in the United States to share expertise, build innovative solutions to 21st century problems, and consider the future of U.S. technology policy); and the Trust and Safety Teaching Consortium (launched by Stanford University’s Internet Observatory to share open access teaching material on online trust and safety). Radia is an informal advisor to the UN and an advocate of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Pilar Orero

Professor, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Professor Pilar Orero, PhD (UMIST, UK), works at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in the TransMedia Catalonia Lab. She has written and edited many books, nearly 100 academic papers, and almost the same number of book chapters – all on media accessibility. She’s a leader and participant in numerous EU-funded research projects on media accessibility.

Professor Orero works in standardization and participates in the UN ITU IRG-AVA – Intersector Rapporteur Group Audiovisual Media Accessibility, ISO, SAGA, and ANEC. She has been working on immersive accessibility for the past four years, first in an ImAc project, whose results are further developed in TRACTION, MEDIAVERSE, and MILE. Orero has just started to work on green accessibility in GREENSCENT.

Until December 2022, she led the EU network LEADME on Media Accessibility. Additionally, she co-chairs a study group on accessibility and inclusion in the ITU Metaverse Focus Group.

Natali Rangel Salas

Consultant, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Natali Rangel works as a consultant at the International Atomic Energy Agency in the Office of the Director General. In her role at the IAEA, she works under the guidance of the Senior Coordination Officer (Programme and Partnership) and the Management and Administrative Specialist. Her responsibilities include providing programme and partnership support, undertaking research tasks, and contributing to drafting assignments.

Natali is currently pursuing her Master Thesis at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. Her research focuses on the economic and ecological challenges arising from the bilateral EU-Mercosur Association Agreement. Natali holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Sciences, with special focus on the Latin American continent, from the University of Vienna.

Mounir Tabet

Deputy Executive Secretary, United Nation Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

Mr. Mounir Tabet (Canada) took up his official functions as Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nation Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) on the 7th of September 2018.

Prior to this, Mr. Tabet served as the UNDP Country Director for Iraq (2016-2018) where he oversaw the program on stabilization and transition. From 2013 to 2016, Mr. Tabet served as the UN & UNDP Resident Coordinator in Tunisia, providing support to the transition including on electoral support, constitution making, parliamentary effectiveness and anti-corruption. Previously, Mr. Tabet was the Country Director of UNDP Egypt (2007-2013) where he led support to development efforts. From 2004-2007 he was the Senior Program Advisor in the Regional Bureau for Arab States in UNDP HQ in New York. Previously, Mr. Tabet was Edward S. Mason fellow at Harvard University – the Kennedy School of Government. There, he completed a Masters degree in Public Administration. He holds a Masters degree in Economics from the University of Ottawa. Between 1989 and 2003, Mr Tabet served in a variety of country and HQ positions with UNDP. Prior to joining UNDP, Mr. Tabet worked with the North South Institute and the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa and the University of Ottawa.

Ellen Taylor

Youth Program Officer, ITU

Ellen Taylor is a Youth Program Officer at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). She is a Master of Information Studies graduate and young leader who is passionate about digital inclusion and international diplomacy efforts, particularly those related to gender equality and youth empowerment. In 2022, she participated in the World Telecommunication Development Conference and ITU Plenipotentiary Conference as the youngest member of the Canadian delegation. Her work and research focus on user experience design (UX) in software development, with the goal of connecting and empowering diverse communities through co-creation and knowledge sharing efforts.

Nikola Trendov

Digital Agriculture and Innovation Specialist, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Nikola Trendov is an expert in digital transformation of the agrifood systems, known for his significant contributions in the area of digital agriculture strategies, digital innovation hubs and digital innovation capabilities. Currently, works as a Digital Agriculture and Innovation Specialist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and co-lead the Digital Agriculture Team within the Office of Innovation, dedicated to steering digital innovation initiatives toward the achievement of the SDGs and leaving no one behind.

Prior to FAO, worked in private sector and civil society organisations, coordinating various digital agriculture projects and led initiatives related to capacity development in digital agriculture. Have received several awards and scholarships for his academic achievements in agrifood systems and digital transformation.

Nikola holds Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree from the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences and contributed extensively through research during his tenure as a researcher at the University. 

Yining Zhao

Junior Communication Officer, ITU

Yining Zhao works as Junior Communication Officer at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in the domain of metaverse and digital transformation for cities and communities. She supports the activities of ITU Focus Group on metaverse (FG-MV), the Regional Group for Asia and the Pacific of ITU-T Study Group 20 “Internet of things and smart cities and communities (SG20RG-AP), and a United Nations initiative, United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC). Prior to this role, Yining works as an Engineer at the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) for various research projects related to digital transformation. Yining holds a Master’s degree from the University of Bristol and two Bachelor’s degrees from the Renmin University of China.