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.