Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code, sat down with me at the McDonald’s 365 Black Forward Awards and Luncheon during Essence Festival 2018 to talk all things technology and women of color. One thing that can be hard in the technology and entrepreneurship space is access to resources. People often say things like: “use your network,” or “get your friends involved” – but what happens if your friends are also working 12 hour days and your network doesn’t include access to resource and money?
While you might not have access to people in high places or resources to get your business “poppin’,” you actually do…and it’s right in your hands. Bryant explained, “We are very lucky now that over the last decade, a lot of the tools we are using in the classroom with the girls on a daily basis are actually available online for free.” Trying to learn how to code? You don’t have to pay some large incubator or even sign up for lessons at your local community college. Bryant shared a few sites that can help those interested in learning to code. She revealed, “A lot of the organizations like Code.org and MIT have created these tools where students can download and actually teach themselves to code without stepping foot in the classroom. I think that’s a great equalizer and an opportunity that tech allows.”
The one thing that Bryant re-iterated throughout the course of our interview was ensuring that people have access. “I think if we look at this access to technology or access to the internet is a freedom that everyone should have. It controls everything. If you want to apply for a job, you probably need access to the Internet. If you want to look for resources for your kid in terms of school and going to college or even K-12, you can probably better do that with having access to the Internet.”
While the Internet and smartphones may seem like a staple in the United States, in many developing countries it’s a luxury. As of June 2017, 51% of the world’s population had access to Internet. Only 35.2% of the population in the continent of Africa has access to the Internet. Mark Zuckerberg created an initiative, called Free Basics, to provide Facebook access to people in developing countries, so they have access to the Internet, free of cost. The program is available in 42 countries and half of them are in Africa. While this is a grand idea, it should have gone a step further. Facebook is not the “Internet,” and it also shouldn’t be provided by someone who can turn the faucet off and on at their liking.
Bryant got real about the rising costs of the Internet and the necessity of net neutrality. She told Hello Beautiful, “When we look at something like water and utilities, it’s a utility that every single family should not have to pay for. These things are important if we want to create an equitable society when we are living in a time when technology is really the foundation of every foundation of our lives. While I think it’s great that Mark Zuckerberg is giving access to other communities, it shouldn’t be controlled by one person that can turn the faucet on or off in terms of how we enter that portal. It should really be access and democratized in terms of this access.”
We’re grateful to women like Kimberly Bryant who are in the tech space and fighting for equality and representation. She mentioned the importance of technology in the classroom (at all schools), “It’s a language. We should look at it just like a language that our kids are being able to learn in the classrooms because they are going to learn it every single day. If we don’t advocate and actually push for Black and Brown kids to have the same access to their more wealthier peers, we’re going to create a situation of haves and have-nots as the technology tends to continue to grow and accelerate how things are controlled in the world.”
Beauties, continue to fight for technology in schools and use the Internet to advance opportunities for you.