Digital Justice: A Reflection from the TTL

Over time since I have been managing the Tenderloin Technology Lab at St. Anthony’s Foundation, I have come believe that we are missing something significant when discussing certain aspects of technology. In my opinion, we need to steer the conversation away from the limiting concept of how to close the digital divide and instead focus on the overarching need for digital justice, the pillars of which are access, education and understanding of relevancy.

Digital justice occurs when we prioritize digital inclusion, when we ask ourselves and those at every level of society to co-create conditions, as well as programs and services, that create access for all, offer and promotes learner-centered education and require society as a whole to understand why it is important to include and bring everyone into the digital era. We are in the processing of moving towards digital justice, and in this process exist three categories of people, the first of which is often shocked to learn that the other two exist:

CATEGORY 1: Those who a) have access to the digital era through functioning and connected devices and computers; b) know how to use their devices, apps, programs to participate in the digital era; and c) understand the relevancy of being connected in the digital era. Many people in this category not only are unaware of those who are not in this category, but are also designing platforms, programs and apps that assume all people are in this category; unfortunately, this is not the case.

CATEGORY 2: Those who are in various stages of gaining access, education and an understanding of relevancy, but who do not currently have all of the following: a) a working device with reliable internet service, b) the competency to use the device to execute desired tasks, and c) an understanding of the relevance of digital connectedness.

CATEGORY 3: Those who are being left behind, forgotten, ignored and excluded. Note the use of verbs that highlight the agency of those who are doing the leaving behind, the forgetting, the ignoring, the excluding.

We cannot responsibly move forward as a whole society when we are allowing entire segments to be left behind. St. Anthony’s embraces not only the WHOLE PERSON, but by extension the WHOLE SOCIETY. Digital Justice, as a subset of Social Justice, regards society, not the individual member, as the mediator of digital access, education and relevancy. Therefore, it is time for all of us to be part of the greater movement of digital justice by asking ourselves, whether as individuals, employers, policy-makers, as leaders, as providers of programs and services, “What can I do to contribute to digital justice?” To learn more, check out our blog post by that name--What can I do to contribute to digital justice?

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Tenderloin Technology Lab is a progam within the St. Anthony Foundation