About Kona Connect

Read our Story and Meet the Team

Our Story

The Origins
In 2017, while working for the United Nations in West Africa, five refugees turned up at Rhiana’s office looking for help. They had been knocking on doors of different organisations for over five years trying to get help with many pressing issues, including enrolling a child into school. But little to nothing had been done to help their situation. After trying – to no avail – to mobilise various agencies for them, Rhiana decided to turn to her network to get these determined and resilient refugees the help they needed and deserved. By finding the right person, three different solutions were discovered within one weekend. All it took was one person who knew which specific organisation could help.  And the child who needed an education was enrolled within the month. The refugees knew what assistance would be most useful, and the local organisations knew the right avenues to take. What remained was matching the need with the resource.

The Turning Point
Inspired by this turn of events, Rhiana started to develop a tool which would help people in vulnerable situations find the help they require through a technology that can automatically direct them to the right place. In so doing, this tool would, on one hand, help individuals navigate the overwhelming amount of information out there. On the other hand, it would assist often understaffed and underfunded institutions with their staggering workload, thus allowing the employees to spend more quality time with the people in need.

The Pandemic
Though, upon the emergence of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, and the corresponding drastic rise of violence against women, her priorities shifted. Together with a handful of friends, they adapted the technology to domestic violence and “Sophia” – the world’s first chatbot assisting survivors of domestic violence collect potential evidence and seek help – was born. With  the help of dozens of committed volunteers from all over the world, they quickly moved to get “Sophia” up and running.

Matching resources to needs, and drawing upon both local knowledge and science-based research, the Kona team combines new technologies with legal expertise and people-centred knowledge to find practical and equitable solutions. All within a lean and efficient structure.

Our Core Values

We believe in a value-driven and communal approach to building and running Kona Connect. We maintain that these values are channeled into and weaved throughout each project, interaction with one other, and our day-to-day experiences at Kona. We strive to:

    1. Empower others

    2. Remain curious

    3. Ensure inclusiveness

    4. Practice integrity, impact, and compassion in our interactions

    5. Make time for fun while fighting to make our world a better place

The Kona Connect Team

Our amazing team comes from all around the world and bring their wealth of experience and expertise to Kona:


Rhiana Spring

Executive Director and Founder

Rhiana is an award-winning international human rights expert and entrepreneur. With the United Nations, the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and diverse NGOs and legal teams, Rhiana has defended the most vulnerable individuals and spearheaded multinational human rights projects across Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe. She speaks five languages and holds three law degrees from the London School of Economics and Oxford Brookes University. Aged 17, Rhiana set up and ran her first IT business, having learnt various programming languages.

Ndeye Diodio Calloga

Deputy Director
and Projects Coordinator

Diodio is a passionate human rights activist and lawyer. She is the former Secretary General of Maison de La Gare advocating for the over 50,000 thousand enslaved children in West Africa.  Diodio has piloted and managed multilateral projects supported by the United Nations, the European Union, the Global Fund for Children, the United States Department of State. She holds law degrees from Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis, incl. her final year of her PhD in International Law and is the winner of th 2012 International African Moot Court Competition.

Clinton Albuquerque

Chief Brand Creative Volunteer

Clinton is a global brand creative with over 25 years experience leading teams across four continents for the Karma Group, an International boutique luxury travel brand. Clinton has worked all over the world creating a remarkable international branding. By designing the brand of Kona Connect, Clinton has brought our non-profit organisation to a whole new level. Clinton is also the founder of Quevis.co, a renowned and award-winning digital and creative agency.

Our Core Tech Team

Volunteer Tech Team Leader
Lead Engineer
Privacy & Security Engineer
Cyber Security Volunteer
Privacy Wizard Extraordinaire

The Board of Advisors

Flynn Coleman

Author, Harvard University Fellow, Professor, and International Human Rights Lawyer

Flynn is an author, a Harvard University fellow on human rights and technology, an award-winning international human rights lawyer, a professor, a public speaker, a social innovator and entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Malena.

Rita Izsák-Ndiaye

Rapporteur of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Rita is an Assistant Secretary-General level human rights expert at the United Nations. She serves as a Rapporteur and Member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and is the former UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues.

Dr. Gabriela Tejada

Vice-President of the Swiss Commission for UNESCO. Academic Deputy, ETH-Lausanne College of Humanities.

Gabriela has extensive expertise in international cooperation in science, education, and innovation, incl. advising universities, multilateral organisations, and governments. She was a visiting researcher at Harvard University and ETH, and worked for the UN in the field.

Nilmi Senaratna

Co-founder and former CEO of Oolu – One of the fastest growing off-grid solar companies in West Africa

As the former CEO and later Chief Business Development Officer of Oolu, Nilmi led the company’s growth from start-up to market leader in Senegal, Mali, and Burkina Faso. She built the team from 0 to >230 full-time employees, with a management team consisting of 50% women. 

Hilda Liswani

Founder and CEO of WeBloom Africa and EPFL Tech4DEv Sustainability Manager

Hilda is the Forbes 30 under 30, award-winning Founder and CEO of  WeBloom Africa, an organisation building a pipeline of investments into women-led African enterprises.  As the Tech4Dev Sustainability Engagement Manager at EPFL Tech4Impact, she is assisting in bridging the gap between technology, innovation and social impact. 

Drew Dudley

Founder of Day One Leadership and bestselling author of
This is Day One: A Practical Guide to Leadership That Matters

Drew is a world renowned leadership expert and has been called one of the most dynamic speakers in the world. His TED talk “Everyday Leadership (The Lollipop Moment)” was voted “one of the 15 most inspirational TED talks of all time.”  He has helped top organisations around the world increase their leadership capacity, and now advises Kona.   

The Passionate Volunteers

The Legal &
Data Rights Team
The First Responder Lawyer
The Passionate Go-Getter
The Enthusiastic
Privacy Rights Expert
The Tech-savvy Sherlock
The Historic Legal Researcher
The Innovative Strategist
The Multilingual Researcher
The Earnest Data Privacy Researcher
The Brainy Legal Databank Specialist
The Team of Health & Social Workers
The Sharp
The Gender Based Violence Activist
Social Worker
Specialised in Abuse and in Tech
The Thorough and Thoughtful Social Worker
The Wellness Activist
The Attentive Doctor-To-Be
Social Worker
Specialised in Women's Shelters
The Computer Hacks
The Considerate
The Passionate
Aid Engineer
The Versatile Developer
The Kind-Hearted
Software Engineer
The Determined
Systems Engineer
The Curious App Developer
The Seasoned
Systems Architect
The Energetic Software Engineer
The Caring IT Genius
The Advocacy Team
The Master Connector
The intellectual campaigner
The ceaseless organiser
The Efficient Researcher
The Resourceful Connector
The Communications Team
The Sharp Communications Expert
The entrepreneurial Youtuber
The diligent go-getter
The Digital Strategy Manager
The Digital Media Expert
The Intellectual Pianist
The Business Developers
The Insightful Political Scientist
The Determined Aid Worker
The Outspoken Feminist
The Private Sector Engager
The Efficacious Admin
The Survivors

Join Us

We are always grateful for complementary partners and advisors from the fields of our charitable projects. Please contact us if you are willing to give us advice or want to partner on specific projects.

Interested in joining our team?
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