Is the Internet business model broken? Balancing user needs with business interests - The Marconi Society (2023)

Our free virtual symposium will be held November 2-3, 2022.register herefor Lili's session and much more!

The Decade of Digital Inclusion is being organized in partnership with the Institute for Business and Social Impact (IBSI) and the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) at the University of California, Berkley.

Ahead of the symposium, Lili Gangas shares her thoughts on the intersection of technology and social justice, as well as practical ideas for creating a digitally just world.

  1. Tell us about yourself and your role at the Kapor Center

My name is Lilibeth Gangas and I am the Director of the Technology Community at the Kapor Center, a foundation operating at the intersection of technology and racial justice. My role includes supporting research, operational programs, strategic partnerships, and investments to increase diversity across the tech ecosystem, from K-12 education to entrepreneurship and venture capital. Our organization's main focus areas are bridging the digital divide, increasing access to computer education and digital skills, improving corporate policies and practices to promote diversity and inclusion, and expanding access to capital for technology entrepreneurs. and communities of color.

I lead the work of the Kapor Foundation, which focuses on community mobilization with a focus on inclusive tech policies and specific interests to close the digital divide, scale new tech workforce models and advocate for responsible tech, and provide essential support on issues of civic commitment and the technical empowerment of citizen organizations.

More specifically, through our technology and racial justice policy work and associated partnership and grantmaking, I help drive system-level change across our nine racial justice policies, remove barriers to inclusive tech ecosystems, and I work on federal, state and local policies. due to inequality in access to new technologies.

Prior to joining the Kapor Center, I was an Associate Director in the Silicon Valley-based Accenture Technology Labs' Open Innovation Team, which focused on partnerships and programming to connect startups with Fortune 500 clients. I was also a founding member of the Kapor Center Innovation Services at Booz Allen, specializing in crowdsourcing solutions, sweepstakes, and federal open data. Prior to that, I developed software and hardware solutions for the aerospace industry as a Senior Multidisciplinary Software Engineer at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.

2.What is "leaky pipe"? Why is it important and how does digital equity play a role in the problem?

The “Leaky Technology Pipeline” at Kapor Center refers to a comprehensive framework developed by our CEO, Dr. Allison Scott, written and directed, helps explain and address the myriad of pervasive systemic barriers since early K STEM education. -12 to access to venture capital funding that prevents balanced representation and diversity across the tech ecosystem. A fundamental barrier early in the process is the digital divide.

We all know that digital connectivity is no longer a luxury but a necessity. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, we saw thedisproportionate lack of connectivityby race, income and zip codemake yourself even wider, as well as an entire society depends more than ever on digital connectivity. For many of these reasons, bridging the digital divide has become anational priority. If we don't address digital equity as soon as possible, we will continue to see the consequences of unequal access perpetuate the rest of the opportunity journey for underrepresented communities and continue to prevent them from benefiting fairly from the upward economic mobility of the community economy. innovation.

our lastReport on the state of diversity in the black tech ecosystemit shows that progress towards an equitable ecosystem has stalled and in many ways is slowing down. Between 2014 and 2021, we've only seen a 1% increase in blacks at big tech companies. Of the $288 billion in funding provided by venture capital firms between 2020 and 2021, only 1.3% went to startups led by black founders. Of the many factors that prevent diverse communities from accessing these social and economic opportunities, digital inequality is one of the most fundamental.
Commendable steps have been taken to address these problems: theEmergency Connectivity FundFor example, it offered schools $7.17 billion to enable distance learning during the pandemic. The federal CARES Act has funded programs in cities across the country to connect families with laptops and Internet access. More recently, the Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Law was granted$65 billionfor broadband development, of which each state will receive at least $100 million through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. But to successfully address the access issues we are seeing, this funding must be sustained for the long term and prioritize the most affected Black, Hispanic, Tribal, urban, and rural communities.

3.What are the key policy imperatives to bridge the digital divide?

The COVID-19 pandemic has once again drawn attention to significant and longstanding disparities in access to the broadband and technology devices that all Americans need to stay connected to an increasingly digital world. An estimated 19 million Americans do not have access to reliable broadband, and low-income rural and tribal communities, and Black and Hispanic households are far more likely to be deprived of the critical broadband connection they need to learn, work and prosper. One in three Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native families lack high-speed Internet in the home, and one in three families earning less than $50,000 a year lack high-speed Internet in the home. When COVID-19 required a unilateral shift to distance learning, 15-16 million K-12 public school students lived in homes without an internet connection or a device sufficient for distance learning, severely impacting students from low income, students of color, and rural students. . In addition to a lack of broadband access, Black, Latino, tribal, and rural communities are less likely to have reliable, reasonably-speed broadband at home, and more likely to face affordability issues.

To close the digital divide, we must support infrastructure investments that expand service options and create new competition that results in universal coverage, lower prices, faster speeds, and greater reliability in all ZIP codes to serve the African American, Hispanic, tribal, and rural communities equitably. While short-term solutions, such as government subsidies, are necessary, many of the most vulnerable will continue to have difficulty accessing subsidies, and relying on emergency funding is not a long-term solution. Without equitable connectivity, the cascading effects of educational and economic gaps will continue, and the impact will be felt in our country for generations to come.

Some examples of policies to advocate for are:

  • Increased investment in infrastructure to expand affordable, reliable, high-speed (i.e., 100 Mbps/100 Mbps) broadband access options in all ZIP codes, particularly prioritizing segregated, Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, and communities affected by the digital red line. More open access intermediate infrastructures would allow last-mile providers to be more competitive and offer better options for everyone.
  • Increased investment in targeted grants to help low-income families with affordable broadband and streamlined qualification and onboarding processes (including cross-registration with eligible families with other agencies including HUD, USDA, DOE) to ensure eligible families are covered by the benefit of federal subsidies, and investment in digital education programs and technological devices.
  • Increased investment in rigorous data collection, data transparency, and accountability around broadband availability and affordability to ensure areas of greatest need are identified, prioritized, and tracked. A current challenge is accurate mapping, which has implications for what to fund. Funding decisions based on self-reported cards from ISPs need to be further investigated. The FCC is currently working to provide more accurate connectivity maps. We need to more accurately assess which communities (postcode by postcode) are actually supplied and in what different quality.

4.The Decade of Digital Inclusion brings together a unique intersection of technology, policy and digital inclusion perspectives. Why is this interdisciplinary approach important and how does it intersect with your work?

Through my community work at the Kapor Center, I saw firsthand the tremendous need and urgency to connect my local community, particularly Oakland students and families, through citywide collectives. I have supported specific high-touch efforts with partner organizations and grants to provide internet access and devices at the height of COVID-19.

My direct and baseline assessments were also a personal moment for reflection, as I found myself reflected particularly in the faces of Latino immigrants, non-English speaking children from single-parent homes who attend Oakland schools. Like them, I immigrated at a young age with language, social and economic barriers. However, because I had access to the Internet and a computer at home, I was able to satisfy my curiosity and learn in a safe environment. This foundation eventually allowed me to study as an electrical and software engineer, which changed the financial path of my life and my family. I apply these fundamental insights, all based on the experiences and needs of low-income communities of color, to my work at the Kapor Center. Created and led programs to facilitate the advancement of technology pathways and career mobility for talent of color, led our efforts to improve broadband access and connectivity in Oakland, launched initiatives focused on building diverse technology ecosystems, and am currently co-editor of a series of papers on racially inclusive technology policy.

By supporting and taking leadership roles in citywide efforts, such asOakland city, where I co-chaired two task forces focused on political and community engagement, worked with advocacy groups throughout Oakland, and urged that our efforts focus on racial justice. Findings from this hyperlocal work flow into my advocacy at the state and federal levels. I am currently a member of the FCC's Diversity and Inclusion Working Group and support the Digital Discrimination and Digital and Technology Enhancement workflows. Additionally, as a Latina, it is close to my heart that I was recently recognized by the Hispanic Association for Technology and Telecommunications as a 2021 Tech Innovator for my work serving Latino families across the country. I see myself in the faces of these kids who were disconnected, I see my mother and grandparents in the elderly who couldn't get health care, and I see my favorite Oakland small businesses in the business owners who had to close because they weren't prepared to work in a fully digital environment. I am working to ensure that the digital divide ends as soon as possible so that we can take advantage of this unique opportunity to really level the playing field in technology for everyone and for generations to come.

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