Keynote Speaker Category: Digital Equality, Diversity, Female Speakers, Technology,


Dr. Payal Arora is a Professor of Inclusive AI Cultures | Co-founder of FemLab | Digital Anthropologist

She is a a pioneering force in the realm of inclusive technology and digital anthropology. With a PhD from Columbia University, NYC, and a professorship at Utrecht University, she blends academic rigour with real-world insights, making her an invaluable voice in shaping the future of AI and digital cultures where she brings two decades of user-experience research in marginalized contexts, focusing on inclusive design and data governance.

Payal has penned over 100 journal articles and several award-winning books, including “The Next Billion Users” (Harvard Press). Her latest work, “From Pessimism to Promise: Lessons from the Global South on Designing Inclusive Tech” (MIT Press), releases on September 3, 2024.

Forbes hails her as the ‘next billion champion’ and a key reformer in tech. Her work has been featured in 150+ media outlets, such as The BBC, Financial Times, Tech Crunch, and The Economist.

Payal has captivated audiences worldwide, delivering over 350 keynotes across 67 countries. She has shared stages with luminaries like Jimmy Wales and Steve Wozniak, addressing prestigious forums such as:

  • World Economic Forum
  • Copenhagen Tech Festival
  • ACM Facct
  • COP26
  • TEDx Talks

She has provided strategic guidance to top-tier organizations including UNHCR, Spotify, KPMG, Adobe, and GE. Payal also serves on several influential boards, such as the World Women Global Council in New York and the UN Data Governance.

She is currently directing the AI ethics section for the EU H2020 project FINDR (Fairness and Intersectional Non-Discrimination in Human Recommendation), Payal continues to drive impactful change in tech ethics and policy.

As a Rockefeller Bellagio Resident Fellow Alumnus, Payal’s contributions to digital anthropology and inclusive technology have earned her global recognition and acclaim.

Why a Business Audience Would Want to Listen to Dr. Arora:

  1. Inclusive Innovation: Payal shares insights on how to design technology that serves diverse populations, which can help businesses tap into new markets and expand their customer base.
  2. Data Governance Expertise: Her knowledge on data protection and ethical AI practices helps businesses navigate complex regulations and build trust with their customers.
  3. Future Trends: Payal’s research on emerging tech trends offers businesses a glimpse into the future, helping them stay ahead of the curve.
  4. Global Perspective: With experience in marginalized contexts and the Global South, she brings unique perspectives that can drive global business strategies and inclusivity.
  5. Proven Track Record: Payal’s collaboration with major organizations like Spotify, KPMG, and Adobe demonstrates her ability to provide actionable, high-impact advice.


  • The Next Million Users
  • Call to Action Towards an Inclusive Internet
  • Can Mobile, Internet, and AI include the masses?
  • Digital innovation for the next billion

These are just some of the topics that Payal speaks about. Contact us if you would like her to talk about a particular topic that is of interest to you.

RHS -Who is in charge of the future of the internet? | Payal Arora | TEDxErasmusUniversity

Why digital benefits need to be balanced with data privacy – Payal Arora, author, ‘The Next Billion Users
Hitting the Books: Modern surveillance and ‘the science of happiness’
How the pursuit of leisure drives internet use

Who is in charge of the future of the internet? | Payal Arora | TEDxErasmusUniversity


Payal Arora is the author of several books including Dot Com Mantra: Social Computing in the Central Himalayas (Ashgate, 2010), The Leisure Commons: A Spatial History of Web 2.0 (Routledge, 2015; Winner of the EUR Fellowship Award), and recently The Next Billion Users: Digital Life beyond the West (Harvard University Press).

Her most recent book The Next Billion Users: Digital Life beyond the West (Harvard University Press, 2019). In this book she examines the online lives of millions of people in China, India, Brazil, and across the Middle East―home to most of the world’s internet users―and discovers that what they are doing is not what we imagine. Payal reveals that many assumptions about internet use in developing countries are wrong. Through extensive fieldwork, she demonstrates that the global poor are far from virtuous utilitarian’s who mainly go online to study, find jobs, and obtain health information. She reveals habits of use bound to intrigue everyone from casual internet users to developers of global digital platforms to organizations seeking to reach the next billion internet users. Much of her research focuses on data governance, media literacy and digital cultures in the Global South.

Payal is the co-editor of Crossroads in New media, Identity & Law: The Shape of Diversity to Come (Palgrave, 2015) and has published 50 papers in her field and has given over 150 keynote presentations across 85 cities in 35 countries, including a TEDx talk on the future of the internet.

She has consulted for both the public and private sector including hp, Dutch Brewers, GE, and UNESCO. Her teaching has been recognised through a number of best teacher nominations and awards including the prestigious University Education Prize in 2017.

She is the Founder and Executive Director of a digital activism organization, Catalyst Lab, and is currently Associate Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Payal’s participation at our leadership summit was inspirational, impactful and insightful. She was able to distill complicated, in-depth research and deliver a presentation that was engaging and easy to follow. All of our participants from across the Caribbean and Latin America felt Payal’s presentation was right on the mark and exactly what we were looking for as our company strives to build momentum and reach the next billion users.”

Michael CoakleyVP, Head of Communications, Liberty Latin America Telecom

Payal is a great speaker, who gave an stunning insight into a topic, our congress attendees – most of them senior IT-executives – normally are quite unaware: How is a large part of mankind using Internet and IT, what are the needs, wishes and hopes of the Next Billion Users? Many thanks for this inspiring look outside the western box.

Robert GammelExecutive Producer Hamburger IT-Strategietage

Payal kindly agreed to give a talk at the India Science Festival and also join the discussion on the Keynote Panel. She is one of the few researchers who deeply understands technology and society. Her talk and thoughts illuminate how these two should interact to create the most benefit for all of us. The importance of this topic cannot be overstated and Payal’s clarity of thought is the need of the hour.

Varun AggarwalCo-founder, Aspiring Minds, India Science Festival

Payal Arora´s Keynote for the FoME Symposium was inspiring and eye-opening. It was a convincing appeal to the Media Development Community to rethink their assumptions on how to work in the Global South. We really need to understand better the needs of the people we working for. We can´t just impose our beliefs on them. One key phrase for me was that she reminded us that people don’t make judgments based on just facts. That is a very rational perspective but decision-making doesn’t work that way.

Steffen LeidelSenior Consultant, Deutsche Welle (DW)

Payal presented to our audience of strategists and marketing professionals with unique insights into the lives of the “next billion users”. Through her contributions, she gave listeners the opportunity to diversify their views on what users around the world are doing online and the impact the Internet and data are having on their lives. She has a very engaging appearance on stage and has a lively way of presenting figures and statistics.

Juliane HennigProject & Event Manager, NEXT conference Hamburg

Payal is one of these rare speakers that is both a great storyteller and comes with knowledge that is backed by comprehensive academic research

Martin ThörnkvistCurator, TechFestival Copenhagen

Payal uniquely weaves academic rigor with first-hand stories from multiple lands – to bring compelling insights and a peek inside the minds of the next billion users. With Payal, you get a thoughtful, empathetic ring-side to view to the hopes, dreams and aspirations that powers billions across the planet.

Jay DuttaFounder/curator, DesignUp

Payal gave an inspired talk on ‘The Next Billion Users’ that was eye-opening for our participants from industry and academia as well as students. She managed to turn her research results into a fascinating story that she presented with charismatic stage presence.

Hans-Bernd KittlausChairman of the Software Product Management Summit, Founder of InnoTivum Consulting

What an amazing keynote you delivered during Internetdagarna. You scored a 4.6 out of five from our audience and there was a huge engagement in the chat during your talk.
We are amazed how well all our keynotes evaluated and how it is possible to have an intimate, inspirational experience even though we are all online. You were a was a big part of that success.

I'm all teary eyed right now 🙂


Wow!!! So good


Thank you Payal for all new insights!






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