Digital Divide

On July 27, 1998, at the New York Historical Society, Silicon Alley Reporter put on the first Rising Tide Summit. The threesome behind this event were Jason Calacanis, Gordon Gould and me.

The event began at 830am and ran until 1130pm. It was the first of these kind of events that are now the norm. Interactive conversations between the attendees and speakers. We covered technology and each vertical technology had touched. If technology had not changed an industry, it certainly was going to at one point. After the last presentation, the party began. We were not lost on having this event at the New York Historical Society.

The last presentation of the day was given by Andrew Raseij. He was the co-founder of MOUSE. An organization which I became the first Chairperson of. He brought 15 Black, Brown and Latino kids on the stage. None of them had access to a computer in their home. That still sticks with me today.

You would think that 30 years later that this problem would have been solved. All you need is WIFI and a computer. Seems pretty simple, right? COVID has forced education to change to online learning and many students do not have access to WIFI. They are living in places where there isn’t any. They are finding themselves doing their work on their phones in places where they can at least access the hotspots.

It is unacceptable. Every building should have WIFI. Every city should have free WIFI. There should be no zones in any place in this country where you lose service at any time. There is zero reason why we can’t have mesh networks that allow each city to amplify WIFI throughout each street, store, library, apartment, home, office, garage, restaurant, etc. How is it that 30 years later under-served communities are still falling short of access to a tool that has become part of our daily lives and businesses? We should all be connected.

It is time for elected officials to make this a priority. Everybody should have access to WIFI. And as we move into the future, our education system is going to be blended, more online and less in brick and mortar. Why should some fall behind simply because of no access to WIFI. We should want every kid to have the ability to succeed and not having access is unjust.

The digital divide still exists today and there is absolutely no reason it should. It is utterly appalling. Shame on us.