Inequality in the digital realm
Across the globe, the Internet has profoundly changed how we work, learn, and express ourselves. Its rapid growth has created challenges and opportunities in every area of contemporary life, from self-representation and education to economic development, political engagement, civic participation, and creativity. It has connected us with each other and sparked bold thinking about how to create a more fair and just world.
But the digital world is not neutral, and its benefits are not equally shared. Too many people—particularly those who have been historically excluded or marginalized—are unable to access and influence digital platforms. As technology continues to reshape relationships between citizens, governments, and corporations, struggles to control the Internet are intensifying around the world. Globally, governments and private corporations effectively control access to and functions of the Internet. Ubiquitous data collection and automated decision making raise serious concerns about privacy and equality in jobs, criminal justice, housing, health, education, civic engagement, finance, and expression. To ensure that the Internet develops to meet the needs of the public, we need effective, technically sophisticated, diverse, and globally distributed organizations working to advance stronger, more inclusive Internet policy.
Advancing equity in the information age
For this digital transformation to be a positive one, all people need ubiquitous and inexpensive access to the Internet. Societies need to institute clear and enforceable legal, policy, regulatory, and technical frameworks at the national and global levels to establish and protect rights to the Internet—and the scale of these responses must match the rapid development of the challenges. Throughout the Internet landscape, societies also need a healthy marketplace of competing, open, and public-protecting platforms, along with the involvement of technologists who represent diverse populations and show that the people who are using these platforms are also creating them.
To meet these goals, government and civil society will need to develop new skills and capacities that help them see and understand whether the technical architecture of our world is advancing or undermining the opportunities, rights, and protections that people enjoy—and help them ensure that the information age is one that advances equality and freedom for all. Diverse networks of advocates can help make important connections between these (sometimes obscure) concerns and the historic movements for justice, equality, and consumer protection.