Bridging the Digital Divide: Driving Towards Digital Equity

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Sociologist Dr. Julie Albright breaks down why women are facing a digital divide and how to combat this issue.

Digital accessibility is a privilege, one that allows those who have unbridled access to the digital space. Host Nancy Novak, CIO of Compass Datacenters, met with Dr. Julie Albright, a highly decorated technology sociologist who currently serves as a board member for Infrastructure Masons, to talk about the need to mend the digital divide for digital equity and inclusion.

As a woman who has spent her career looking at the digital transformation of society, Dr. Albright is well versed in understanding the digital divide. But what exactly is it?

Dr. Albright described the divide as consisting of three levels. “I kind of think of it as three pillars,” she explained. “One, you might not have a digital device, be it a smart phone or a laptop or something like that. Second, you might not have digital connectivity, meaning internet at home sort of thing. And third, you might not have digital skills.”

The digital divide can be any of the three pillars or a combination. Within the divide, women fall behind.

“What the research shows, is that overall, globally, women are more likely to fall on the wrong side of the digital divide,” Dr. Albright said.

While this divide can be broken down further into more specific socioeconomic factors like race and age, the COVID-19 pandemic put extra pressure on these categories and deepened the issue.

One example of this divide Dr. Albright recalled was witnessing an immigrant woman shed a tear over her inability to access her healthcare needs online during the pandemic. While this example is one of many, women are unequivocally affected by the deepening digital divide.

Within the technology industry, there is a consistent lack of female voices. However, the more experiences and perspectives that can be added to a project, the more innovative. Unsurprisingly, the more women brought onto a project, the less blind spots in the project. “Bringing more women into developed technology isn’t simply a nice thing to do… it’s an innovation imperative. It actually brings more innovative results,” Dr. Albright highlighted.