In Nov. 2016, Nji Collins Gbah, a tech enthusiast from Bamenda, Cameroon, started participating in the Google Code-in competition, the global online contest which introduces pre-university students aged 13 to 17 to the world of open source. Despite his tenacity, the odds seem stacked against Gbah. In 2016 alone, over 1,300 students from 62 countries took part in the competition. In total, they completed more than 6,400 tasks related to coding, research, documentation, quality assurance and improving user interfaces. But one day after the competition ended, the government shut down the internet in Bamenda, Gbah’s hometown and the capital of the northwest region. The shutdown also affected the southwest egion and was instituted following protests in the two Anglophone regions against marginalization from the French-dominated government. Since then, the shutdown has drawn criticism from digital advocacy groups, and from United Nations experts, who have called it “an appalling violation” to reedom of expression. On Jan. 30, almost two weeks into the blackout, Gbah was selected as one of 34 winners—and the first African—of the annual ompetition. His story, that of a young developer winning an esteemed hacking award, has been used as a rallying point for those campaigning against the shutdown. During the upcoming summer, Gbah alongside the other winners will be spending time at the Google campus in California, and meet with the tech company’s engineers. “Without the internet, it’s like killing the community people have toiled for years to build up,” says Angela Lumneh, who financed and created Opportunity Space, an app that enables Cameroonians to find scholarships abroad.