A guest post from Fearless COO John Foster
Digital equity means providing everyone with what they need on an individual level to succeed and thrive in the digital world we live in.
Everyone requires different things, and that means different approaches need to be taken to close those gaps. Individual success for all can only happen when large entities like the government and the private sector take an active role in closing the digital divide.
Through our work with the government, on both the local and federal level, we sit at the intersection of the public and private sectors. There are several steps each entity needs to take to get everyone close to digital equity.
We all have to first acknowledge the inequities and systemic racism that exists within our government structure. Government has a responsibility to understand it helped build the system we operate in and now have to unravel that system that exists.
Locally, I am very encouraged that Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott hired Baltimore City’s first Director of Broadband and Digital Equity.
The potential for success is limitless if organizations devote resources to the cause. Fearless has seen through our government work that if an agency or a program division does not have authority and doesn’t have a budget, then nine times out of ten it goes absolutely nowhere.
I encourage the Baltimore City government or any government organization to allocate city funds to unravel and address the thread of inequity.
The private sector is just as responsible for helping close the gap of digital inequities. Digital literacy varies widely across the user bases for a business’s software and services. Nonprofits in our communities do a tremendous job educating people in terms of digital literacy, but businesses need to understand their role in digital literacy and people having a troublesome time using their technology.
It’s the responsibility of businesses to create services that aren’t cumbersome, so the literacy gap doesn’t have to be so great, so nonprofits don’t have to teach as much to help someone use a service.
No matter how cool software looks or how well it runs, the true measure of its success is pretty simple: does it meet the needs of its users?
This basic question is unanswered when businesses think of themselves as the user instead of the actual people who will use the products during the development process. If you’re not being empathetic to how people use your software or services or engage with you, then you are fundamentally missing out on a large demographic of folks that you can help and serve.
Instead of users having to jump through hoops or having to get more education to effectively use your software, consider if you are even building the right thing.
This is a direct call to action for businesses who want to close the gap when it comes to equity. Instead of talking about what to do, this is an opportunity to do something.
This is where non-profit organizations in your community can come in and play a key role.
Here in Baltimore, there are dozens of organizations that engage with the communities we are trying to reach and serve. They have the relationships and know what these populations need. There are nonprofits in every community that have relationships with the folks in the area who need the most help. Governments and businesses do not need to spend time and resources trying to build their own infrastructure and a comprehensive strategy.
Approach this with an Agile mindset, try something, get results and then what works and pivot and iterate from there. Galvanize around a group of nonprofits and work with them for outreach in the communities. You do not need to stand up another nonprofit to do work that is already being done.
Be smart about the available resources and shift your mindset from talking about doing something and start doing it.