Let's Talk About Access To Tech

#WomenInTech is talked about quite a lot (and I should know, I’m a huge advocate and supporter) and there are some absolutely amazing things happening in the Manchester Tech Community to help support it – from #BraCamp to SheSays MCR and back round again. And don’t get me wrong there’s still a huge way to go, but things are moving in the right direction.

So what we’ve seen is a huge collaborative push to meet the gender gap in the industry; a way to help address the skills gap and include all genders in a world that shouldn’t be gender specific. It’s great. What we’ve seen recently, is people from both sides of the fence address the gender issue in tech, take responsibility and actively promote change.

However, another really important and crucial matter has caught my attention recently (and I’m speaking in really general terms here, so don’t bite my head off please), but tech seems to be a little bubble. And this little bubble is predominantly white-middle-class-young-men. It’s a huge over-generalisation, I know and I’m aware of that, but I’m making a general statement to help make a point clear. In order to get into tech, there are some basic requirements that you need:

  • Access to the internet
  • Access to a computer/technology
  • The freedom to spend time exploring
  • A support network to push you to learn

There’s a huge population of people out there that don’t have the things that we take for granted. It’s really easy to say that tech, IT and digital, are ways to breakdown social barriers and are inclusive of everyone. But, what if you don’t have the means to learn code in your spare time, to explore the ins and outs of a circuit board or have access to an old mobile phone to hack? What if you can’t get onto the internet in your spare time to understand how things work and learn what the difference between java script and CSS are? Sure there are some amazing free tools out there for people of all ages to use to learn about technology, but there’s a commonly misplaced assumption, that everyone has access the same access to the internet to get the tools to help them learn.

So, what I want to try to understand and change is: how can we further diversify tech? How can we pop the bubble and get more people from every background into a truly inclusive ecosystem of tech, IT and digital?

All in all, it’s time to openly talk about race, gender, sexuality and more in our amazing industry. Let’s openly talk about the issues we face and all the gaps that need addressing.

There are socio economic barriers to everything, I can understand that, but that doesn’t mean I agree with it. Tech can surely be the vehicle for change to break barriers and help people into a completely different career path. Apprenticeships are definitely doing their part to help people get into Tech, Digital and IT, but I think the problem starts earlier than that. I think at a younger age, children from all backgrounds need to be shown the possibilities of where Tech can lead, that it can be fun and that being a footballer isn’t the only way to fame and fortune.

It’s time to change the world, help people and give everyone the same opportunities. The only question is how can we do it?