Digital Inclusion Week: Providing Digital Equity for All

 |   Mariko Davidson

Think about it, can you name a sector that is not influenced by technology? But benefits from our digital society — like connectivity, community, productivity, information, and opportunity — are still not readily accessible to all. While technology becomes woven into every facet of our lives, it becomes increasingly important that everyone has equal access to it. Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Because of this stark contrast between availability and accessibility, Microsoft makes digital inclusion a priority in our day-to-day processes, ensuring that we’re doing the most we can to bring technology to those who need it.

I’m happy to further that mission as I recently joined the San Francisco Public Library for Digital Inclusion Week, May 8-13. This week-long program is a series of speakers, panel discussions, workshops, and more to help promote universal broadband access and digital literacy in San Francisco. This is an immediate need in the Bay Area; more than 150,000 people in San Francisco alone are lacking high-speed internet at home and more than 300,000 people aren’t digitally proficient.

Those of us who have this access and these skills may not realize the local dearth of digital access, which is necessary for many public services, general social interaction, business interaction, or schoolwork. That’s why initiatives like Digital Inclusion Week are important; not only are we discussing this lack of access, but also we must work to provide it to these underserved communities. Connecting our community empowers and enables it to grow and deliver further impact.

During DIW, I MCed a panel session calling for Digital Equity in San Francisco Now, where we discussed digital inclusion and access with Internet Service Providers (Comcast, AT&T, Webpass, and Monkeybrains) and Non Profits Organizations (BAVC, Self Help for the Elderly, Women’s Building and The Arc). Together, we explored how we can work to ensure digital equity, and dive deep into the possibilities we can achieve when everyone is connected.

Outside of my program, Digital Inclusion Week offered plenty for individuals of all skill levels and interests, including:

  • Free technology skill-building classes
  • A Tech Expo for resources and services
  • Films that provoke thought and discussion
  • A host of innovative keynote speakers

This work doesn’t end after Digital Inclusion Week, however. Our team here at Microsoft Silicon Valley is working to make digital inclusion a reality for all who live in the Bay Area. From organizing Civic User Testing Groups to Hacking for Good on and off campus to utilizing our public/private partnerships, we’re working every day to provide digital equity where it’s needed.

I encourage you to join us year-round as we propel the mission of San Francisco Public Library’s Digital Inclusion Week to start the journey to providing digital equity for all.

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Mariko Davidson

As San Francisco’s Civic Innovation and Partnerships Strategist, Mariko builds civic initiatives across sectors to leverage technology for the public good. She brings a deep expertise in cities, formally trained as an urban planner at MIT, specializing in governance, data policy and transportation. As an Innovation Fellow for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, she launched the Commonwealth’s new Open Data Initiative where she also worked on data management policy, data governance, and privacy issues. There she brokered the first multi-municipal open data agreement between Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. She also served in the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics where she focused on maker technology and girls STEM education programs. In 2015 she ran a close race for Cambridge City Council. Most recently she led the civic-focused Engagement Lab @ Emerson College as their Managing Director where she established partnerships with organizations including the UNDP Egypt, Living Cities, and the World Wildlife Fund. Prior to this, she worked across Asia on city-focused initiatives with the East-West Center and ITDP (Institute for Transportation Development & Policy). She holds a Master in City Planning from MIT. Off hours you can find Mariko riding her bicycle or surfing the nearest coastline. In 2010 she traveled around the world on $25/day with a small backpack and her surfboard. She owes her love of community and loathing of traffic to Honolulu, her home. Come talk to her if you want to chat cities, data policy, equity, transportation, and technology.