The Heart of Digital Equity

What is Digital Inclusion?  Today we continue our series on the issues of the digital divide with Scott Henley and Susan Kraurbauer of  

  1. Personal Vs Corporate – How to Help
  2. Why Mobile isn’t enough
  3. Return on Community

The mission of Digitunity is to eliminate the technology gap, through and with a network of stakeholders and solutions, so that everyone can thrive in a digitally connected society. Having a connected, working computer and the skills to use it is a fundamental need in today’s society. We envision a day when everyone is included, and a new world of opportunities is available to all people so that no one is left behind.

Heart of Digital Equity Transcript

Tim Kubiak 0:04
We’ve talked before about the digital divide, and how it’s both an economic and an educational problem in the United States. We’re gonna go deeper into that how you can get involved and how corporations can truly make a difference today. As always, thanks for listening to bow ties in business. And I’m your host, Tim Kubiak. Hi. And once again, welcome back to the show. Today, I’m joined by Scott and Susan from digital unity. And we’re going to talk about the digital divide in a different approach. In the past, we’ve talked about conductivity as the issue today, we’re really gonna focus on devices. So with that, Scott, Susan, welcome to the show. Can you take a couple minutes, please introduce yourself?

Scott Henley 0:43
Sure. Yeah. Thank you, Tim. My name is Scott Henley. I’m the Executive Director of Digital Realty. And our organization, as you said, is focused on device ownership. It’s the heart of digital equity. And it’s such an important facet, important facet of folks being able to participate and thrive in our digital society, it’s kind of hard to believe, but even in 2021, there’s 55 million Americans that don’t have a computer at home. And then there’s 10s of millions of additional households that don’t have enough computers for concurrent use by, you know, multiple kids or multiple parents working at home and things like that. So the issue is deep, it’s pervasive, and it’s persistent. And that’s what we’re working to, to try and

Tim Kubiak 1:29
tackle. And I know we’re gonna get into it more today. So for people who like numbers, they do a lot of original research, and we’re gonna make sure we touch on some of that. So thanks, Susan, community self, please,

Sue Krautbauer 1:40
Sure, happy to do so. So I’m Susan Krautbauer. And I have spent 20 plus years in the technology space in the aftermarket services, contract manufacturing, service, service delivery. And, and so I come from the same spot as many of your listeners in the tech space is firmly planted in the tech space. But I’ve been a longtime believer in the work of digits, unity, which has been doing this work for over 36 years. And first I was what I call a cheerleader and a supporter, and then had the honor to be a board member, and just really took a look at what I was going to do with my life and said, I’m going to put my passion and my purpose with my paycheck, pursued Scott for a job and came on board as their senior director of strategy and development right before the pandemic hit. And, and my passion has been seeing the the results of what one single computer can do when it’s put into those hands to those end users to those constituents, the kids that don’t have a computer or have never had a computer, a you know, a new immigrant that that is just trying to, you know, find their way through this new culture called, you know, the United States of America to you know, the elderly, working with the elderly, and seeing how, especially during the time of the pandemic, having a tablet or a laptop, to connect to their loved ones, and and not be isolated during, you know, eight these 18 months and more, is just something that resonated with me. And so that is my passion as what I call it digital equity champion.

Tim Kubiak 3:30
So let’s start there. What is digital inclusion? Everybody defines it a little bit differently, you know, and how does it move society forward? Really?

Scott Henley 3:41
Yeah, from, from my perspective, digital inclusion is is giving everyone the ability to participate in our digital society. So that means not only the device, and the conductivity, but the skills to be able to thrive, and the supports that that help them continue to be successful. Because this is such a fragile thing. When marginalized individuals, if we’re able to solve their issue and help them get a computer, and a connection to the Internet, if that computer breaks, then they’re dead in the water, they’re back to square one. And so it’s the it’s the complete picture, including inclusive software and apps as well. And so it’s it’s it’s a multi pronged issue that we’re trying to solve and digital equity is the goal is this giving everyone the ability to have, you know, the opportunity that the internet and connectivity can provide?

Tim Kubiak 4:41
So, so you talk about the apps, one of the things I think you had a great corporate sponsor, if I’m not mistaken. Malwarebytes and you did some research on that that came out back in September. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Sue Krautbauer 4:53
Sure. Scott, I’d like to jump in on that. So. So as we is we think about our work. And our work is, is oftentimes putting a computer into the hands of an individual that’s either not familiar, not a digital native, as we might call it, or someone who is just their skill sets, aren’t they’re not, they’re not comfortable there. And it does it absolutely, positively when you think about, you know, people who are on the wrong side of the digital divide, which we also call the technology gap. And it describes that gap between those who have access to computers and the internet knows who don’t, those are, often, as Scott said, low income communities of color, rural, isolated individuals, older adults, the vulnerable, then they sit on the wrong side of this divide. So so we provide a computer for them and open up this, this amazing world, amazing world of connectivity. And think about it from your own perspective. If someone took your computer away, and you couldn’t you couldn’t access the internet on a daily basis what that impact would be for you. But we also put these poke folks in in the possibility of yet a more vulnerable position because they’re not familiar, they don’t know how to keep themselves safe, necessarily. So one of our corporate sponsors Malwarebytes. And we paired up with them their their leading cybersecurity malware by malware protection software company. And we said, what happens when they get on? Are they? Are they targeted more frequently? Do they? Do they get scammed more often? And what is the rate of fraud? What is the rate of victimization within folks who are in our, in the new the new digital, the new digital arena. So we, we had some key findings that I think would be really interesting. 31% of people do not feel safe online, they don’t feel private, online, globally. And this was done not only in the US, but also in the US in the in the United Kingdom, and also in Germany. So it is got a global flavor to it. 53% of women do feel the least private, there are 53% of women, compared to 40% of men feel least private online. And globally, that was 35% of women versus 27% of men. And interestingly enough, when you when when for those of us who are very comfortable in the tech space now, you know, you put on an anti malware, you know, you know, cybersecurity type, you know, infrastructure either on your computer, or you know, your network, etc. 79% of the 5000 people that were interviewed in in that in our target market did not have any familiarity at all with antivirus products. So, I mean, there’s more stats to come on that and and I can share more as we go along. But it was just startling. And for us, it felt important to know that once we opened the door to the to this massive world of digital opportunity, what else what what other responsibilities might we have for that. So we’ve also partnered with Malwarebytes, to provide to our constituents on computers that are sent, sent to them to be able to have the Malwarebytes software product, the full Malwarebytes software product loaded for free on on computers that didja tunity and our digital Opportunity Network are providing to our constituents.

Tim Kubiak 8:40
So so if I can draw some correlations here, right. So digital privacy is one thing, there’s obviously been a ton of research into banking in disadvantaged communities, right, and their lack of accounts and access. And then you talked about immigrant communities. And one of the things that I know is an issue in World Bank tracks, it is, you know, we’ll say, authoritarian governments tracking and, you know, tracing people’s currency flows inside their countries. And when you have immigrants, one of the things that often happens is culturally, they send back to the old country for lack of a better phrase, and what you’re doing here, or at least my interpretation of it, is, you’re given the ability to not only communicate safely in this environment, but potentially communicate safely back to their families that have been left behind. Is that fair?

Sue Krautbauer 9:32
Absolutely. Spot on. Absolutely. Yep.

Scott Henley 9:36
Because one of the one of the big things, one of the, you know, findings from the research that was startling to me was that of the 1000s and 1000s of people that were surveyed, not a single person, avoided suspicious online activity doesn’t matter, age, gender, income education level. Everyone is exposed to it and so whether it’s an In the immigrant population, as you said, or anyone else, it’s such a pervasive issue. And so with, through working with Malwarebytes, we’re hoping to, you know, help protect those that are new adopters, and probably the most vulnerable.

Tim Kubiak 10:15
So how can people get involved both at a personal level and at the corporate level?

Sue Krautbauer 10:21
Scott, I’ll let you, I’ll let you run with that one.

Scott Henley 10:24
Sure. Yeah, I’ll jump in the, I mean, there’s numerous ways to get involved from the end from an individual person who has an extra outer service laptop sitting on their basement shelf, that that computer has life in it. And whether it’s operable or not. Through through our work, we have an online platform that we match individual donors of tech, with nearby charities that help support people, whether veterans or older adults, or any of the populations that we’ve mentioned so far. And so we play matchmaker, and we helped facilitate the donation of that of that product. If it’s not workable, if it’s not in working condition, then we match with a nonprofit refurbisher nearby, so that that computer can be refurbished brought back to life, loaded up with current software, and so forth, and, and out into the community to help support people in need. And so that’s that’s sort of the the most granular way is that you and I can go into our basement, grab an old computer and get it out there to into the community, wherever it’s needed. And so we work with 1500 nonprofit organizations all across the country, that helps support individuals and families through technology. So that’s, that’s what Sue had mentioned before the digital Opportunity Network. Now, beyond that, within that I should say, is a group of 85, nonprofit refurbishers, that are also located all across the country. And so we support that sub network, if you want to call it that, by connecting them with corporate donations of technology. Now, corporate America today could solve the technology gap with the amount of devices that are in circulation, and the amount that are refreshed every year and taken out of service and so forth. The supply is out there. And so what we’re trying to do is change the way that companies look at technology, and to plug them in more more deeply into their communities. And so we work with a wide range of corporate clients, where they call us up and say, Hey, we’re doing a refresh in San Antonio, can you help us find a recipient organization. And so we play matchmaker there as well. And we help facilitate the corporate donation of technology to a nonprofit refurbisher. And then they’re able to, to break the machines down and get the good ones out into the community, they’re, you know, that breaks them down into parts and, and so forth. But it, we continue to work in this granular fashion, and we’re trying to build that out at scale. So we can solve this problem at an international basis. Right. And if I

Sue Krautbauer 13:09
can pick you back in here, this is my, this is, this is my tech side of me, you know, lifting its head up here for a moment, when you think about the large corporate, the large corporate donations, and, and there’s always been a little bit of a trepidation in the past on you know, if I if I send my assets, my my, my technology assets into the, into a nonprofit channel versus the normal channels that they use the for profit recyclers in the for profit itad providers and, and returning it back for trading and things like that. You know, again, we’re talking about cybersecurity, how’s my data going to be secure? What are these people do? You know, there’s this, there’s this an inaccurate picture of, you know, a couple of people in a garage, right? What I want to make sure for any of your folks that that whose corporation might be interested in doing that type of activity, our nonprofit refurbishing community, our true itad providers, so they’re providing chain of control data wipe for NIST and DOD standards, they can provide certificates of destruction. And we have an entire hand holding costs here, service that we provide to those corporate donors, so that they can be sure that their assets are going correctly, they get the right reporting. And we work from financial institutions that have Sarbanes Oxley to you know, hospitals that have HIPAA regulations and such. So, just wanted to throw that out there from my side of the technology that that not only is not only are you getting return on your investment return on your asset, but what we like to call also the corporation is getting return on community. They’re putting this into their own communities to help folks upskill and learn new skills and become better workers etc. So, but but that’s always a concern in the back of mind most of the corporate entities that we talk with,

Tim Kubiak 15:06
so let’s go on that corporate entities, when you hear this, if I’m a large financial institution, great, I can make a giant difference, right? But my assumption is, is that the individual business owner with 10, or 20, or 40, employees in the city, that’s refreshing their infrastructure can also make a difference, right? They’re a good candidate, the

Scott Henley 15:30
100%, and we’re missing, we haven’t mentioned the website, so companies can go to a couple different websites, donate technology, Comm, it’s super easy to remember, and donate technology comm you can go there and fill out a simple form, and that that that will, you know, put us in touch with you. Or if you go to didja, which is our main site, there’s a lot of information there, that walks you through how to do a donation of that kind, and what the process looks like.

Tim Kubiak 16:02
And you partner with channel partners, MSPs, people like that, if they were interested in as part of their own refresh cycles, and they reach out and become sort of a programmatic element for you.

Sue Krautbauer 16:12
Absolutely, absolutely. And if I might digress just a little bit on that, you know, a managed services provider, small, medium business, you know, mid level to large corporate, we, we really, you know, as Scott had said, even an individual who has a computer, you know, that’s retired in their own basement, one computer, 10, computers, 20, computers, 2000, computers, all of those can, can be moved through our process. And and there’s some, there’s some benefit to that small, medium business MSP that you’re talking about here as well, not only the large corporations that have formal corporate social responsibility, programs, and people and staff, but to the small medium business, here’s a great opportunity to, to come to didja tunity, who can connect them with nonprofits in their local communities that not only need technology, but there’s also opportunities for employee engagement, and volunteering, and, you know, corporate support in terms of, you know, we’ve had local, you know, device drives, where we partner, both, you know, a local nonprofit or two that we have in a city, and a managed services provider, who then sends it out to all their, you know, their community and their customers, and do it, you know, do a device drive, there’s lots of ways to get involved on multiple levels that, that, as we all know, corporate engagement is good for retention and recruitment. And, and, you know, people like to be able to help and be involved in their community. So lots of ways to get involved.

Scott Henley 17:48
And one last way, if you don’t mind, we haven’t mentioned, of course, you can help to support this cause and this work by making a financial contribution as well, whether you’re an individual, or if you have ties to a foundation, or what have you, or even through corporate support, we have a number of corporate partners to help fund this work. And so we’re always wide open to that, and so grateful for that type, that type of giving.

Tim Kubiak 18:12
And you have intensity to your project coming up. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Scott Henley 18:17
Yeah, this is really exciting for us. We we are just at the beginning of rolling out this new project that’s presented with support from at&t. And at&t is rolling out a new initiative called connected learning. And they’re supporting a number of different projects across the country, including ours, which is taking us into 10 different cities, from coast to coast. And the cities haven’t been announced yet. But that’s coming out soon. And what what we’re doing with this project is one of the things that we’ve learned through our work over these many months and years, is that there’s a lack of coordination of resources in cities. And it’s a pretty pervasive problem. silos, people working in silos, doing the same thing, multiple organizations in one city that don’t even know each other and don’t communicate. And you can, you know, the same can be said, for for government agencies, for nonprofits and so forth. So what we’re trying to do here is not only deliver computers, of course, and it’s focused on the homework gap, so that means K through 12 students and their families. The devices are just one component of it. The real driver of this project is to work together with communities to build lasting systems so that we plug in local business we get on the radar of local philanthropy. We pull together all the organizations that are already doing work in this space. There may already be a local coalition who’s trying to do this work to and through our nonprofit network and our refurbishers that are part of our network as well. We’re trying to put the pieces together so that we build a lasting system so that any family that needs a computer knows where to get it, there’s robust supply, and there’s an easy pathway for them to get those devices. And so we’ll be rolling that out in 10 different cities, as you said, it’s a two year pilot project. And the goal is to build something replicable that we can bring to any community anywhere.

Tim Kubiak 20:37
In kind of bringing this to close, I know that you have a new film coming out, right? You’ve put a lot of effort into it. Right? In literally the week before this episode goes live, that film comes out. So can you talk a little bit about what people can go learn there and where to find it?

Sue Krautbauer 20:54
Sure. So we are in for in post production, putting it together for for a film that we’re calling the voices of digital inclusion. And it’s not, it’s not about digital unity. And we had some great sponsors as well. But it’s not about the sponsors. What we’ve done is we have gone across the country, and done live interviews of the nonprofit practitioners, governmental agencies, for profit, you know, organizations and companies, etc, that are doing the work that are actually working in digital inclusion working with the end users. And not only have we asked them to tell us both, what are the wins that they’re having? What are the challenges that they are having on the frontlines. But we’re also we also have some stories of people who are going to tell us how that computer changed their lives. And that is in conjunction with a much larger conference that is coming up. And that is the national conversation on the digital divide that’s in partnership with one of our one of our alliance partners, which is connecting connected nation. And we’re very excited about that, because it’s, it’s really more about helping people be aware of, of the digital divide in a new and different way and seeing it not from a corporate, you know, kind of a, you know, a splashy video, but really seeing how that’s impacting people in their own neighborhoods, and, you know, just down the street, very excited about it. Looking forward

Tim Kubiak 22:37
to seeing it myself. So any closing thoughts, anything that I missed that we shouldn’t head on?

Scott Henley 22:45
Well, I’ll just say thank you so much for this opportunity. And if there are any tech leaders in your listenership who are hearing this for the first time and wondering how they how they can get involved, digital is a website digital tunity to match up with digital and opportunity. So digit or donate technology comm is an easy way to drop us a note and we can get in touch and see how we can plug you into this work.

Sue Krautbauer 23:11
Right. And and for me my parting comment and again, thank you very much for the opportunity here to talk about something that is pervasive in our world but but not necessarily in everyone’s radar. And if our if our mission has resonated with you as an individual, you as a as a corporation, I would invite you to give us a call and we’ll tell you a little bit more about not only our own work, which is really an umbrella or to use to use a tech technology we’re you know, we’re its channel, our channel organizations. Those are our nonprofits, we’d love to tell you about the work they’re doing as well and and how we at digit tunity don’t talk about return on investment or return on asset we talk about return on community.

Tim Kubiak 23:58
Beautiful, thank you so much for being here today.

Scott Henley 24:02
Thank you, Tim. Appreciate it.

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