The Internet was meant to make the world smaller, and in large part it has done just that. But there’s still work left to be done to make sure all people can use and understand its power.
Connecting community groups and institutions in under-represented communities to the new economy is an important missing piece. That was a focus of Blackout, a conversation on black media during Philly Tech Week that became much more.
“For an entrepreneur, the web is a storefront when you can’t afford one,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who kicked off the event with a keynote address. “If you’re a student in a rural area — I’m from South Carolina — the web can be a chance to learn Spanish or Mandarin and hear it from a native speaker.”
Organized by 900AM WURD, in partnership with the Free Library, Wilco Electronic Systems and Technically Philly, the event was an anchor of the third annual Philly Tech Week presented by AT&T and followed the release of a new effort aimed at impacting the digital divide in Philadelphia. After her kickoff, Clyburn joined a panel conversation, which may have been among the more important conversations of Philly Tech Week but not the only one this month about inclusion.
Other takeaways from 90-minute panel discussion, moderated by 900AM WURD president Sara Lomax-Reese:
- On independent, ethnic media, the colorful and bow-tied Philadelphia Tribune publisher Robert W. Bogle said: “This has been the toughest job I ever loved.”
- How could more ethnic media grow with the advantages of the web? “Access to capital is the challenge,” he said. “We have not decided as a group to not to business with people who won’t do business with us.”
- “You’ll take your business to China and learn about the traditions and means to make it authentic there, but you won’t do the same to go to Detroit,” said Interactive One CTO Navarro Wright.
- “I don’t like digital divide. I think a more accurate term is ‘information gap’ and when there is a distance between some people knowing and other people not, there is a wealth gap, achievement gap, a gap in a lot of ways,” said Will Crowder of DreamIt Ventures.
- “If you’re a community under served by technology, you need to not only put it in your children’s hands, you need to show them how they can use them to advance their lives,” said Brigitte Daniel of Wilco.
More than 150 came to the cavernous Free Library main branch basement auditorium before retiring to a reception, complete with jazz band.