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Are minorities more likely to feel the Digital Divide?

1 · APR ·2015

When it comes to the global digital divide it’s an unfortunate fact that developing countries suffer more than developed countries, however as Fluidata has pointed out in previous blog posts even here in the UK – a “developed” country – there is a huge digital divide. To make matters worse, there are certain demographic groups within the UK which are more likely to feel the effects of the digital divide.

The problem here is that some people in these groups believe that they do not need to or shouldn’t want to use the Internet, an issue that Baroness Martha Lane-Fox recently spoke about in the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby Lecture. She believes that no-one should say that they “don’t do the Internet” as it can provide numerous benefits and is easy to utilise even with little training or previous knowledge.

Speaking to the Radio Times before her lecture, Baroness Lane-Fox said: “I have never seen a tool that is as phenomenally empowering as the Internet, for so little effort. I have met from people from all over the country, from Bridlington to Bournemouth, saying it has helped them get back to work, helped them get their life back on track. I believe it’s worth spending the time showing people who haven’t had the money or exposure, the benefits.

“Putting the Internet at the heart of things enables you to make more interesting choices. But that requires people understanding the transformative power of the net, and how to use it to build great services.” Baroness Lane-Fox also went on to say that those who believe that the Internet isn’t for them should be given a “gentle nudge” and that in order to deal with such beliefs issues such as sexism need to be addressed.

She said: “The House of Lords is about 24 per cent female. In the technology sector, it’s 17 per cent. But in engineering the female sector goes down to about four per cent! We are creating things that are less diverse than they could be, because women aren’t embedded in the design process. Twitter has said if it had had more women on their original design team it would have thought a bit more about the potential for trolling and abuse.

“The Apple Health Kit [an app that consolidates your health data] has been touted as providing every test about your body that you could possibly want. Blood, sweat, tears. But not your period. Why? Because there was not one woman on the engineering team. Not one.”

Women who work in the technology industry both here in the UK and across the world will likely agree with Baroness Lane-Fox’s comments as it is worryingly male dominated. Recently, Sue Black, a founder of networks for women in computer science, said: "We hear more and more women's voices about what's been happening to them - and we have more men agreeing it's a problem. I have felt in the last two or three years that there is a groundswell around this issue.

"Women are speaking out more publicly, more confidently, and there are more networks of people backing them up." In order to solve the issue of sexism in the technology industry, Baroness Lane-Fox said in her speech that she believes a new national body should be set up in the UK that will not only promote fairness for users of technology but also those working in the sector.

"It's time to balance the world of dot-com," she said. "I would call it Dot Everyone."

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Posted by Sanita Karra