What are we doing about the digital divide in our communities?

Annie is a One Young World Ambassador from the USA who is passionate about equal access to knowledge. She believes that everyone should have access to a quality education. She worked on the Google Academy Accelerate Programme to give diverse businesses access to new customers online.

Diversity means so much to me. It is part of who I am, and for that reason, I believe it is integral to bring diverse businesses online, so that they can grow and thrive in the digital age.

That is why I am so passionate about about the Accelerate with Google Academy, a programme I have been working on for the last 2 years. We run a 12-week program designed to help businesses start marketing online - and then be great at it. As a participant, you get all the tools and training you need to advertise on the web, including live help and private consultations with dedicated experts. The program is customized, so by the end businesses are ready to start meeting your business’s unique goals and making the most of the web.

55% of small businesses don't have a website. In this day and age, not being present online has serious consequences for small businesses. The Accelerate with Google Academy focuses on getting black, hispanic, female owned and LGBT owned businesses to become comfortable and successful with using the online space to make powerful connections with their communities and potential customers. If we do not impart change, and bring these communities online, we are failing them and ourselves. To create a true globalized world, everyone must have access to knowledge, and the price for that access should not be astronomical. 

Personally, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a household where both of my parents stressed education immensely, and sacrificed so that my brother and I could go to world class schools. Not everyone is that lucky. Nor should they have to be in order to succeed, which in this digital age, means being digitally savvy.

In addition to the Accelerate with Google Academy, I make every effort to sit on panels for students of color, so that they see someone like them with a passion for technology. I know the power and the magic of technology as a means to knowledge, and I know that it has been one of the biggest drivers of my success. As young leaders, we need to make a concerted effort to get young people, especially students, from all walks of life passionate about technology as a means for learning. 

“In Newark, a city with one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S., many Newark Leadership Academy students can't afford home Internet access. Though the report found that 91% of Americans had access to high-speed Internet service of at least 10 Mbps downstream, only 71% of Americans actually subscribed to broadband at home — an adoption rate lower than other nations with a similar GDP. That adoption rate was even lower among African-Americans and Hispanics. The report cited cost and skill level as major reasons so many Americans forgo broadband access at home.”

We must take it upon ourselves to impact our communities positively, and that includes everyone from students who may not have access to a computer at home to the mom & pop shop down the street who does not think being online is important to their business. We all deserve equal access to technology, so that our communities can grow, thrive and most importantly, teach other generations the skills they have acquired.

Internet is important. We all know this, and those that have easy access to the internet take for granted how much of our lives and of our learnings come from being able to access it. Making diverse businesses digitally savvy is crucial for our economy, and also crucial for our communities. In order to see diverse businesses thrive, we need to have a concerted effort to bring access, teach the tools, and help these businesses grow.