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university of london panel asks ‘how do we build a digitally inclusive world?’

“Nearly 60 percent of the world is digitally connected. The question is, what is that connectivity actually like?”

Anasuya Sengupta, co-founder of digital inclusion platform Whose Knowledge, asked the audience at the University of London’s School of Advanced Studies’ panel event, Digital Access, Inclusion, and the Humanities, to consider how equal digital access really is. Hosted by Michael Hayman MBE DL, Honorary Professor of the Purpose Economy at the University of London and co-founder of Seven Hills, the event virtually welcomed a panel of four experts in the digital humanities.

Professor Roopika Risam, Associate Professor of Secondary and Higher Education and English at Salem State University, opened the discussion, commenting that among black, brown and indigenous communities, cultural heritage has not received the same kind of investment, digitisation and access compared to ‘majority’ groups.

In response, Professor Bethany Nowviskie, Dean of Libraries and Professor of English at James Madison University, placed these inequities in the context of the pandemic: “The inequalities are more easily seen now, and these have to do with simple access to necessary equipment, to Wi-Fi, to safe and stable places to be when you’re living and learning in the same spot.”

As an associate professor of Spanish and co-founder of the University of Houston’s US Latino Digital Humanities programme, Professor Gabriela Baeza Ventura works to challenge inequalities in the Latinx community: “‘We do a lot of work with empowering our own communities. They learn that they have the tools, that they are valuable, that their stories matter.”

The panellists also criticised the dominance of large tech corporations. Anasuya Sengupta said: “What tech companies understand by ‘globality ‘is deeply problematic. The way they had designed the architecture, the infrastructure and the way they roll it out are all about primarily a white, male, straight Californian or ‘Global North’ perspective and design.”

Closing remarks looked at the need to reduce disparities between digital users and digital representation. The panellists argued that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities, particularly the digital divide, and as the world moves even deeper into the digital age, it is critical that we ensure no one is left behind.

To watch the full event click here

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