For the few years prior to the current pandemic, unrest and our economic slowdown, I have been engaged in conversations addressing our digital divide — the technology gap between underprivileged and underserved members of society. And despite all of its challenges, 2020 is providing the perfect storm to transform us all into digital citizens.
At the Riverside Center for Innovation — a non-profit small business incubator aimed at supporting ventures run by women, minorities, veterans, LGBTQ and other disadvantaged groups in Southwestern Pennsylvania — we’ve had to respond to new daily pressures by pivoting our business development programming to a virtual platform where participants can tap into our suite of services. Through it all, our goal continues to be assisting our cohorts in becoming so familiar with the digital world that it becomes muscle memory.
As an organization, we’ve been patient, allowing us to learn from other people’s mistakes in dealing with virtual platforms. But the larger conversation during this paradigm shift is that the digital divide remains a cross-cultural issue in Pennsylvania and across the nation, in rural areas and underserved urban areas alike. Access to high-speed internet, broadband, bandwidth, network and smart capabilities must all be addressed in areas without them.
The solution is larger than a simple smartphone. Technical assistance and equipment, such as computers, laptops, scanners and printers, are vital as small business owners face the prospect of working from home long-term. A quote from Henry Ford springs to mind, “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.”
Learn more about Riverside Center for Innovation here.
– James Myers Jr., Director for Community and Business Development, Riverside Center for Innovation