Tech and Data Inequity: We’re Not All Moving Into the Future Together

Access to technology seems like a given for many of us. And therein lies our privilege. While I was doing the research for this article, I said to my husband, “Honey, I couldn’t imagine not having great internet.”

“Yeah, me neither,” he said. 

But the fact that I could even continue running my consulting business is due to the fact that I have the technology and internet to do so. I have a laptop and desktop computer to myself. My husband has a desktop computer, and two of our four children now have Chromebooks. 

We decided to buy those Chromebooks to leave the school with two more to give to other families, but my research still surprised me when I saw how many go without the technology that I take for granted. 

Inequitable Access to Technology

Another thing COVID-19 has made obvious is the inequities in technology access. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our schools. In Massachusetts, many school districts reported minority families to child services because their children repeatedly didn’t show up for e-learning classes. Two families were reported for neglect but they weren’t informed of the schooling arrangements because they don’t use Facebook or email.

While 82% of white Americans report having a laptop or desktop computer, only 57% and 58% of Latinx and Black Americans report the same. Even with schools providing Chromebooks for online learning, many minority homes are “smartphone-only” (25% of Latinx and 23% of Black Americans). Only 12% of white Americans fall into this category. 

Under normal circumstances, Black Americans turn to public libraries to make up for not having internet at home. 42% of Black library patrons say they go to use the library’s internet, compared to 25% of white Americans and 24% of Latinx Americans. 

Hidden Stories of Inequity in Data Numbers

How can there possibly be inequity in data? Well, data aggregation actually allows companies, organizations, and governments to hide significant problems. Problems that are only apparent when we look carefully at the subsets of data; when we disaggregate it.

For example, minorities receive 3% of venture capital funds. Women receive about 2%. But Black women receive less than .2% of all funds. That’s despite the fact that Black women are the largest growing demographic of entrepreneurs. 

Dr. Aparajita Jeedigunta, the founder of AJ Rao LLC and creator of the C3EB Summit, shared another hidden data story. Most reports indicate that Asian American men have wage parity with white American men. Dr. AJ shared during our interview that this is actually a misrepresentation of the available data. 

Asian men are actually being underpaid when you consider that they typically have twice as many educational degrees when compared to their white counterparts. So even though their additional education should warrant higher pay, they’re considered “lucky” to receive the same pay rates as white men. 

What Else Are the Tech and Data Inequities Keeping From Us?

Some of our schools are unable to give kids the tech they need for school. The families also may not have the digital infrastructure at home. Despite the fact that many of us are struggling in different ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my research for this series of articles shows that minority communities are unusually hard hit when compared with white communities. 

I also have to wonder what other stories are lost in the digital mountains of data. By keeping the data aggregated, we aren’t hearing the stories struggling to break to the surface. As Dr. AJ said, we need to “tear the data apart.”

Learn more about tech and data inequities and what we can do to change the narrative by signing up for the Culturally Competent Conversations for Equity and Belongingness (C3EB Summit) today. 

Register here.

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