This weekend I was recognized as a Guest of Honor at Social Media Day in Detroit, for my commitment to “Awakening the Mature Geek.” In 2013 I founded Sisters Code with a mission of empowering women and underserved populations in STEM and Life. The other honorees are amazing men and women who are committed to rebuilding Detroit through technology and the spirit of giving back.
The highlight of the evening was serving as a panelist to discuss the role technology is playing in the resurgence of Detroit. I’ve served on many panels, but this was one of the most diverse and radical which made for a very lively discussion.
If you live in Detroit, you will no doubt see the transformation of the Downtown and Midtown areas. The aformentioned areas are full of tech start-ups and garners the most attention from potential funders and the media. However, our conversation during Social Media Day made us all pause to answer questions such as:
1. What are we doing to ensure the entrepreneurs in the neighborhood have access to the funding and resources needed to participate in the resurgence?
2. What are we doing about the digital divide which is evident in the City?
3. What about our Detroit Public School students who don’t have adequate in-school technology or access to technology?
We were there to talk about the role technology is playing in the resurgence of Detroit, and frankly if we stopped for a moment to ponder those three questions we would find answers not to the role technology SHOULD play, but what we as panelist COULD do to bridge the technology gap and ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in Detroit’s rebirth.
With Detroit being dubbed the next Silicon Valley, it is totally unconscionable that our children don’t have computer labs, access to computers, or email addresses. The people who have built businesses in our neighborhoods to ensure everyone has access to their services, should definitely be included in the technology conversation taking place, including access and dollars.
Understanding that a problem without a solution is just an excuse, Sisters Code advanced students are designing free websites for neighborhood businesses who don’t have a web presence. We feel this is a win-win, as the women have an opportunity to add their work to their resume and build their portfolio while we empower business owners with a new website.
At the end of the panel we had not solved all the issues, but we all left more committed to do our part.
The role of technology in the resurgence of Detroit will need to include all Detroiters, especially our children and it will take those of us who have benefited to be engaged. This is our reasonable service.