</Why it’s time we make digital learning a core part of education for all>
“My approach to learning hasn’t changed much since university – but if I were to apply today, with the understanding of who we are and how we live, that I have now – I’d want technology to be stitched into every part of my education.”
By Charlene Prempeh, Founder of A Vibe Called Tech
When I made the decision to apply for Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University, it was because I wanted to have the broadest knowledge of how our society functions. Though at the time there was no specific career plan, I had a huge appetite to learn as much as possible about the structures, thinking and policies that underpin our culture.
A Vibe Called Tech was born out of a similar curiosity: how does technology influence our relationship with corporate and governmental institutions? How does that relationship differ for minority communities? What are the positive and negative impacts of technology on society? How can technology be utilised to reduce existing inequalities? Who holds the power in technology and how can we make sure it’s distributed equitably?
I started asking myself these questions while engaged in a fantasy film exercise on holiday. My partner and I were brainstorming ideas and he came up with a concept that involved facial recognition software being unable to recognise black faces. When we returned to London, I looked into it in more detail – at the time I was convinced that there was no way this could be true – and found that issues with facial recognition technology and dark skin had led to offensive labelling, several errors in identifying black women in particular and issues with falsely identifying individuals as criminals.
What shocked me more than the stories I found, was how these problems with the technology were not causing huge public outrage. It seemed to me that there was a lack of awareness around technology and how it intersects with minority communities, and a need for education as well as advocacy on behalf of the black community.
In addition to raising awareness of a problem that impacts a large group of people, it’s also time the digital industries welcomed a new generation of young and diverse talent to help solve the problem. Many young people have the perception of tech being dominated by white, middle class men (no thanks to exclusive technologies like the above), so it’s really important we work harder to encourage people of all backgrounds to enter the industry, to help erase these issues for generations to come.
The work I do now revolves around making sense of new technologies, identifying the impact on the black community now and anticipating future outcomes. Where possible, I try and collaborate with cultural and civil institutions, academics and tech companies who share my belief that technology should be a positive force for everyone and not an elite few. That being said, it’s time young people in the black community and other diverse backgrounds take control of their futures and help shift this industry in the right direction. Whether it be cultural obstacles or the lack of role models, we need to encourage the next generation to speed past these barriers in order for us all to have the chance to benefit from these technologies across our society.
My approach to learning hasn’t changed much since university – but if I were to apply today with the understanding of who we are and how we live that I have now – I’d want technology to be stitched into every part of my education.
Charlene Prempeh has partnered with the Institute of Coding on their 404 Not Found content series, raising awareness on the demand for a diverse workforce across the sector.
For more information on how you can help create change and reboot the system, visit our course page here.