Gissela Moya Life Without Internet Access, and Why We Must Fix It In The Age of COVID-19

Automatic Summary

The Importance of Internet Access in Today's World

Welcome and thank you for joining this enlightening session on the weighty issue of 'Life Without Internet Access and Why We Must Fix it in the Age of COVID'. This discussion is driven by personal and collective experiences that resonate with the growing global need to bridge the digital divide and ensure connectivity for all. I am La Moya, a tech equity advocate at the Green Lighting Institute, and internet access is a very personal issue to me.

Moving Towards an Inclusive Internet Society

Traditional facets of everyday life such as education, work, and staying informed now heavily rely on the internet. The pandemic has ruthlessly exposed how essential the internet has become. With more people transitioning to remote work and online learning, those without reliable internet access face significant challenges. Interestingly, in the US alone, there were as many as 12 million students already affected by the homework gap even before COVID-19 started. These uncovered challenges disproportionately affect low-income communities, people of color, and those from rural areas. Thus, connecting the unconnected should be more than an option; it should be a priority.

The High Cost of Being Unplugged

One of the primary reasons why many remain offline is the high cost of internet access. It is disheartening to witness numerous families plummet into debt only to maintain this necessity now considered a luxury by some. The resulting struggles, such as sharing one computer among four siblings, young adults crafting their future on a tiny broken screen, or enduring hours of refreshing screens just to submit assignments, are undeniable.

Redlining in Internet Accessibility

In certain areas such as California, a curious pattern emerged where the areas with the least internet access closely resemble the redlining maps of the 1930s and 1940s. Redlining was a discriminatory practice of denying lending and investment to primarily African American and Latino neighborhoods. As such, the lack of internet access in these areas hence cannot be shrugged off as mere coincidence.

_Gender Inequality and Internet Access

The inequality extends opaquely to women. Globally as of 2017, the proportion of men using the internet was 12% higher than women. This gap gives one set a significant advantage over the other in opportunities and career growth. The lack of access to internet and digital tools should therefore not be an obstacle blocking women from entering lucrative tech spaces and sciences. Closing the digital divide effectively helps close gender inequality, benefiting families, societies, and economies as a whole.

How We Can Fix This

A potential solution is to herald internet service as an essential service. Subsidizing the internet bill is one way to help those in low-income brackets afford this necessity. But as we continue integrating more people into the internet, we must also ensure that data privacy laws are in place to prevent any form of discrimination online.

Connect with Me

Thank you for joining this session. If you have additional questions or topics you'd like to discuss, feel free to reach out to me. Let's continue the conversation and work towards an inclusive and equitable internet society for all.

Video Transcription

All right, cool. I'll go ahead and start. Uh So thank you. Thank you, Elana. Thank you, Kim Gabriella Marian for joining me on this session. Uh and Lady from Colombia um from Honduras.I'll introduce myself in a second, but I am just so inspired by the women tech network. I was watching some of the sessions and I really valued so many of the topics, especially the ones related to inclusion. Uh So I hope I can contribute as something uh related to that and why we should include more people into the internet. So yes, you're in the right session. Life without internet access and why we must fix it in the age of COVID. It's a quick intro about myself. My name is, is La Moya. I am a tech equity advocate at the Green Lighting Institute. The Green Lighting Institute is a policy research center located in Oakland, California. I'm originally from Honduras, which is why I'm so glad that there's a fellow uh people from Latin America. I've been living in the US for the past 13 years. Last year. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a political science degree. And since then, I've been working on digital divide issues and the digital divide and internet access is a very personal issue to me.

Uh For the past seven years, my family in southern California has lacked internet access and it has been a true struggle and I believe that with everything going on right now, globally, internet access should be a priority and which is why I really wanted to talk on this session.

Hi, Shinui. Um, and just a few logistics if you wanna ask questions throughout the session, uh would you mind to put question uh first in capital letters and then the actual question that way is easy for me. Uh to see your question. Uh Hi Marja. I hope I pronounced your name correctly and to start us off, I want to ask everybody a question at what age did you get your first computer or when was the first time you had internet at home? Mm. Hi, Domina. So if you mind, if you mind, please answer this on the chat. All right. 14 years old, I'll give it a little bit more. 1112. Mhm. Yeah, that's right. Uh Many people started early in others that they can never attain it or it takes them really long to attain it. So, since this is a 20 minute session, I want to make sure that I touch on all my points. So this is the agenda for today, I'll briefly talk about COVID-19 and how that has disrupted the way we see uh online learning, what the digital divide is, why it exists in California and put into perspective in terms of history and how this digital divide impacts women and why we must fix it once.

And for all the main takeaway that I want you to have and to live with today is that we have to start seeing internet service as an essential service. The same way we see energy. The same way we see water. We have to start seeing internet access. The same way we need internet for almost everything. We needed to apply for jobs. We know there's so many people currently unemployed who need access to the internet to apply for jobs since many of the jobs now require for you to do it online. We also need the internet to make sure the students can complete their homework. Ah, um, we know that with the pandemic, so many schools have closed and students are required to have internet access at home and we also needed to stay informed. There's so many news, so many different topics happening all at the same time and we need it to stay uh up to the current news and I'm sure that we all have seen it. We all have felt how COVID-19 really took us all by surprise. And at the same time, really put a lot of things into perspective when COVID-19 uh started in the US. Many schools in in libraries closed down and many, many jobs were were to be met were meant to uh my bad, many people were asked to do their works remotely. And as you can imagine this impacted low-income people the hardest, especially uh especially communities of color.

Just even before COVID-19 started nationwide in the US, there were as many as 12 million students already affected by the homework gap, which means that those were students who were struggling to complete their homework or who couldn't complete their homework because they didn't have access to it at home.

And when we're looking at those numbers, this is proportional impact students of color, African Americans, Latinos, uh asian-americans, especially students from rural areas or students who come from low income backgrounds. I personally know so many, I personally know so many students and families who are currently risking their safety and their health to go and access the internet from a relative's home. They cannot, they cannot take uh the safety precautions that we have to take during quarantine because they have to access the ho the internet to complete their homework. And you're correct. Uh Kim, I see your comment in terms of uh we see this as a luxury. The digital divide is not a luxury and it shouldn't be a luxury because there are just so many people who just simply cannot afford it when uh we look at the reasons why students and people in general lack internet access cost is usually one of the biggest reasons this past week.

Um My a a report that I co-authored got published called on the wrong side of the digital divide. And after interviewing several residents from valleys from, from rural areas and from urban areas, we found the cost as well was one of the main drivers. We saw that so many families are going into debt to pay for their internet bill. There's this family that I spoke with where they were $600 in debt because they constantly have to borrow money to pay for their internet bill. And as you can imagine, this creates severe impacts in these families because it puts you at a disadvantage. If you're a student who has to write a 2000 word page essay on a small screen, you're going to struggle doing that or just imagine having to wait two hours for your internet connection to reload. So you can finally submit your homework or having to share one computer among four siblings. And that is something that a lot of uh the students spoke about that they are just really struggling to even do the basics of their schooling. And there's a reason why, unfortunately, there's a reason why cost at least in California or in the US. Um is an internet access is just very una unaffordable. One reason, at least in California is redlining. So just in California.

It is estimated that approximately 1.2 million students did not have a computer or lacked internet access to practice online learning. When COVID-19 started, everybody said, ok, go back to your homes, you're go, you're going to, uh, do online learning from your home. And there was this assumption the students out of nowhere would have computers. And we saw that many families did not. And I to this day struggling. And even just recently, uh one of my family members dropped out of high school because she couldn't find internet. And that is what we're seeing when you look at the maps that I'm showing you the redlining, which is, this is these two maps are based of Oakland, California. And uh when my colleague and I were writing the digital divide report, we looked at the patterns of internet access or lack of access in California. And we found that they closely resemble the redlining maps of the 19 thirties and the 19 forties and redlining was the practice of denying lending and investment to neighborhoods of color, to co to communities that are black Latinos and others um simply because they were communities of color.

So the places if, if you see on the map, the places that you see in Oakland that are red closely resemble the places that now in 2020 the ones that have the least internet access. So this digital divide in California is not a coincidence. It's a deliberate lack of investment from private internet providers in low income communities. Just in Los Angeles, the places that have the least adoption uh to the internet are the poorest and oftentimes the blackest communities. And this is because of the history of this country.

And even though I'm giving you an example of California, this is something that happens in other states. This is something that happens in Colorado, I'm sure because that is the history of this country. But just if you, if you're not aware of whether your country or state does this, just look at how poor communities are treated throughout the world. And you will see that most likely you will lack internet access if you're poor. And this has real implications just uh in California, Latinos are wanted as likely to have internet access in comparison to white households. And once you add language barriers, then this gets even wider and worse. But these are just numbers. I also want to talk about real life stories because sometimes we look at it, oh my gosh, there's so many people that there's so many people and we get carried away with the numbers and we forget the story and the experience of the student or that person who lacks internet access just globally.

I want to highlight how globally it just in 2017, the proportion of men using the internet was 12% higher than women. And this is this is happening and what that means is that, that 12% either has an advantage. And what we know is like when we're not included in the internet, then that really harms and that really limits the opportunities that we can have. When I spoke to several women in Fresno, they shared with me the experiences with lacking internet access, for example, pitch who you see her quote on the slide, but she's a high school student who is super ambitious about business and having her own company and her own marketing company.

And she was talking to me about how one of her projects is to design logos for businesses. And she's been doing this on a small screen on a small screen that is also cracked. So here is a very ambitious woman trying to make it, trying to complete her homework and trying to do something innovative right now. But it's being limited by the lack of internet access, by a by not having a computer because she has to design these logos on a small screen. And then you have Daisy who wants to be a journalist struggling to even apply to colleges because she doesn't have a computer. Daisy had to call her counselor, her high school counselor to finish her college application because she was doing it in her phone, a small phone, a small screen, just imagine having to apply for a job or something big on your phone. Instead of a, a big laptop, it can be a true struggle.

So we understand that digital skills and internet access are just so indispensable for young girls and young women because internet access just simply should not be a barrier for more women entering the tech space, for more women entering sciences. Internet should not be the barrier.

And this is why I believe that our future depends on closing the digital divide once and for all because when we close the digital divide, we're also helping close the gender inequality in the workplace. A report by accenture said that if governments and businesses double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, then we could reach gender equality by in the workplace, by 2040 in developed countries and by 26 in developing countries. And there's one thing that we know about women that when we succeed, when we benefit, so does our families and so does the broader economy because we are bringing in more money, we are bringing in more innovation as some as as the other women in this conference have uh said when women participate, we change and make products better.

And we need to be part of that. We also need to, we also need to make sure that we close this digital divide because we need to ensure that everyone has the tools to succeed. We need to make sure the students have the tools to succeed so they could become someone in their life so they could go for the careers that pay a lot of money to help their families in research. After research talks about how students who have internet access at home, perform better in math, science and literature. And this is one of the reasons why we must close it because we want to make sure that our societies are functioning correctly. Lastly, we want to make sure that we close it because we need to prepare for new ways of working COVID-19 has rest shifted the way we think about work. If we want to work from home, if we want to make sure that more jobs, uh uh give employees at least that option, then we need to make sure that those employees have fast and reliable internet, internet that doesn't make the call drop in the middle of your presentation. And there's ways we can do this, there's ways we can solve it. And of course, this might look different depending on the country or state that you are. But one solution in California is in the same realm in how we're seeing internet as an essential service.

We can subsidize the internet bill in California. There are several programs. For example, if uh you can uh um if you're low income, then you might get a subsidy on your water bill. We can do the same thing for internet. If cost is the biggest barrier, then we can help to lower the cost because the more people get connected, the more our economies grow. And lastly, I just wanna close with uh just reminding you that we should continue seeing internet services as an essential service. And to also keep in mind that is as we continue integrating more people into the internet, we have to make sure that there are data privacy laws set in place to ensure that women that people of color do not get discriminated against on online. And that's a topic for another day, but I'll just wanted to open up for questions if you have any questions and I'll answer them. Thank you, Kim. Are there cities doing this? Well? Mm. Oh, ok. I'll answer Marie. How did you frame your research when starting out in terms of uh talking to people or in terms of uh the maps? So for the maps, we looked at the history of redlining and we compared it to census data where we're looking at uh the income, we're looking uh how much um internet adoption there is and how affordable it is in those specific cities.

And then we compared it and then we saw that they're closely similar. Mhm. Well, we only have one minute left but thank you so much. Uh and you can connect with me. Uh If you have more questions, you can find me on majority of my platforms with just my user name, Gisela Moya or you can email me directly. Yes. Uh The Luca. Yes. Mhm. Yeah, definitely. I agree. That one of the major issues is the lack of infrastructure. Mhm. Well, thank you so much and connect with me if you want to learn more about the subject. Bye.