Leaders of Georgetown’s recently-announced Initiative on Technology and Society host prominent international research, policy and practice thought-leaders on the subject of the digital divide.
Some of the most prominent international research, policy and practice thought-leaders on the subject of the digital divide were on campus this week for the biennial conference of the Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide (PPDD).
The digital divide refers to the gap between populations who have access to information and communications technology, and those who do not.
“As technology transforms how we apply for jobs, access opportunities and engage with the world around us, questions of access and affordability are paramount,” said Alexandra Givens, executive director of Georgetown’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy and co-host of the conference. “We all must engage on the question of how technology can be deployed to create new opportunities – not deepen existing inequality.”
The May 22-24 conference was hosted by leaders of Georgetown’s recently-announced Initiative on Technology and Society, which focuses on developing innovative solutions at the intersection of ethics, policy and governance.
‘Father of the Internet’
During a keynote address Friday morning, Vint Cerf, widely known as one of the “Fathers of the Internet,” spoke about the promise of new technologies to help increase access to the internet around the world.
“I want to emphasize how much work is ahead of us,” Cerf noted. “Half the world still needs to be connected, and we need to use each of these tools to do it.”
Other keynote speakers highlighted the core challenges that still exist in the United States.
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks gave his inaugural speech as an FCC commissioner, and participated in a fireside chat with Gigi Sohn, a Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy.
‘A Bridge Too Far’
“For many households, the price of broadband is simply a bridge too far,” Starks said. “You can’t do homework on a smartphone.”
Larry Irving, former head of the National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration (NTIA) and authored one of the original government reports highlighting the digital divide, stressed the ongoing challenge of developing affordable and accessible internet in the U.S., where millions of Americans cannot access broadband internet at home.
The conference also featured representatives from the United States Office of Science & Technology Policy, Commerce Department, and agency heads from Europe, the Caribbean and other regions, speaking alongside academics, practitioners and a range of Georgetown faculty.
Founded in 2002, PPDD is the only academic professional organization in the world focused solely on the digital divide. This is the first time the conference has taken place at Georgetown.
The conference featured a number of Georgetown experts in key speaking roles, as well as practitioners and policymakers representing academia, government, industry and the nonprofit sector.
Georgetown Provost Robert Groves opened the conference, describing Georgetown’s cross-disciplinary commitment to addressing challenges posed by new technologies.
Faculty members and practitioners from the university’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy, Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation, Center for Business & Public Policy, and other research hubs also participated. They addressed such topics as algorithmic bias, the digital divide, the 2020 census and the use of Open Source Software to increase digital engagement.
The conference program and videos of the conference are available at www.ppdd.org.