On 14th December 2020, the Digital Technologies, Power and Control Challenge Working Group held a meeting with over 25 stakeholders interested in identifying challenges and good practice around working with marginalised communities. At the event, we discussed how marginalised voices are being heard (or are not being heard) and about ways to empower communities with knowledge to make informed choices about future technologies.
One of the goals of this project is to identify what could be done to prevent technologies deepening the digital divide in the future. In the meeting, members of non-profit organisations, universities, charities, trusts and city councils participated in discussions about what might worsen existing power asymmetries between those groups who currently hold power and those who do not have a voice in the development and use of digital technologies.
We considered which marginalised groups currently have support from charities, non-profits and trust as well as what that provision consisted of. Whilst it was clear that several organisations are actively working to encourage some marginalised groups to better understand digital technology usage, there is always more that can be done. It was also recognised that some communities are not being supported as much as others and that members of those might be even more excluded as resources are in place but not all who are marginalised.
Considering the levels of trust, or lack thereof, that some groups hold towards authorities, it has become clear that is not merely a matter of providing digital technologies resources. Rather, care will need to be taken when thinking about issues such as privacy and whether certain marginalised groups will be able to feel secure using technology. Some individuals do not like that aspects of their identity are beyond their control (financial accounts, health information) such that they prefer to use face to face communication.
In light of Covid-19, some of these concerns have been exacerbated. For those who do not have access to digital technology in their homes, use of the internet has likely decreased as public spaces which provide access to computers are closed. Other people who may only interact face to face have now become socially isolated. Ensuring that digital technology is created to empower the population and provides access to the technology in a way that makes people feel secure, is crucial.
We considered several topical challenges and innovative ways to address these challenges. The meeting yielded an engaging discussion across a range of areas and provided the team with several avenues to investigate related to research knowledge gaps. We will shortly be posting summaries on some of the discussions that occurred in the meeting.