Just about 30 years ago, the internet was just something that very few people truly understand and know how to use. It’s still perfectly normal to not own a computer at home. We can still go about our day to day lives without ever feeling the need to log into Facebook, check our emails on Gmail, and do a million searches on Google. But, today, it’s extremely difficult to attend classes, run a business, and socialize with our friends and families without the internet. If we don’t own a capable computer and smartphone, it’s almost an act of irresponsibility.
But despite the notion that such forms of technology have become very crucial, it’s very important to remember that such things are still privileges. Schools need computers to help students research and cope with distance learning. Businesses need enterprise file sync and share software to thrive in a tech-driven economy.
So, just like any privilege there is, not everyone has it. The growing digital divide between upper-middle class and the low-income communities has been widening nonstop. But these nonprofit organizations are doing their best to close that divide and create a tech-savvy world that is rooted in inclusivity.
Girls Who Code
If we watch TV shows about tech such as Silicon Valley on HBO, we will notice one thing: there are more men than women. We may not be completely surprised by this; there has always been this kind of gap in STEM fields. But what’s really surprising is that studies have shown that the number of women working STEM fields — particularly as computer scientists — is actually declining. By 2022, it’s forecasted that there would only be 22 percent of women working as computer scientists.
This is the problem that Girls Who Code is trying to address. This nonprofit organization’s ultimate goal is to close the gender gap by 2027 by bringing more women in the tech industry. To date, they have reached over 500 million people. Three-hundred thousand of them are the girls who they have worked with. And 50 percent of the girls they work with come from historically underserved groups. These include those who have come from low-income households and/or are people of color. Girls Who Code offers after-school programs, college guides, and summer immersion programs.
Much like Girls Who Code, AnitaB.org aims to close the gender gap in STEM fields. The birth of AnitaB.org really began in 1987. This was when Dr. Anita Borg opened doors for women to let them into the digital community. Even back in the early days of the internet, Dr. Borg already saw the gender gap and immediately began trying to close that gap. Today, the impact of AnitaB.org has reached over 50 countries. They have forged strong partnerships with universities and other academic institutions and private companies — many of which are part of the Fortune 500.
AnitaB.org offers funding opportunities for women technologists who are looking for capital to launch their startups. They are also conducting events, workshops, and panel discussions to openly engage women in conversations about tech as an innovation and as an industry.
While the previously mentioned nonprofits open doors for women, NPower.org opens doors for military veterans and young adults who herald from underserved communities. This organization is formed because of the growing demand of tech skills in various job opportunities. A study conducted by Microsoft Data Science found that tech-oriented jobs will reach 13 million in the United States by 2025. Thus, it’s crucial for more people to learn about tech.
Through the programs and events that NPower conducts, they are leveling the playing field by helping military veterans and young adults gain more skills, knowledge and mindsets necessary to succeed in a tech-driven economy.
Data collection is one of the most important tasks that institutions and private businesses need today. It helps them in many ways, especially in research. This is why experts at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative developed and launched KoBo Toolbox. This software is an open source suite of tools that would aid professionals in data collection especially for humanitarian emergencies.
Among the nonprofit’s esteemed partners are Cisco, MacArthur Foundation, and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, KoBo Toolbox has been one of the leading software for contact tracing.
The constant advancement of technology is not a problem — not if it’s open to all people from all backgrounds. This is why it’s important to ensure that no one gets left behind when it comes to technology. Their education, careers, and even health safety depend on it.