To blame technology, take care of public health

What was it like that public health has lived up to its promise of improving the lives of millions, while failing to solve the problem. significant health disparity of people of color in America? And what can the tech governance movement learn from these failures?

Over 150 years public institutions serving the common good through sciencePublic health has transformed people’s lives. In just a few generations, some of the world’s most complex challenges have become manageable. Millions of people can now expect safe childbirth, rely on water supplies, enjoy healthy food and expect collective responses to epidemics. In the United States, people born in 2010 or later will live through live 30 years longer than people born in 1900.

Inspired by the success of public health, technology and policy leaders have proposed public health model digital governance, where technology policy not only detects and corrects the past harms of technology to society, but also support social welfare and prevent future crises. Public health also provides a pathway—careers, disciplines, public organizations, and an engaged network of community leaders—to build essential systems for a healthy digital environment.

Yet public health, like the tech industry, has systematically failed marginalized communities in ways no accident. Consider the public health response to Covid-19. Despite decades of scientific research on health equity, Covid-19 policy is not designed for communities of color, medical devices not designed for our bodiesand health programs that don’t match inequality put us at more risk. As the United States hits one million recorded deaths, Black and Brown communities bear a disproportionate share of the country’s total deaths. labor and the burden of loss.

The technology industry, like public health, has encrypted inequality into its systems and institutions. Over the past decade, groundbreaking investigations and technology advocacy led by women and people of color have made the world aware of these failures, leading to a growing movement of tech governance. . The industry has reacted to the regulatory potential of invest billions of dollars in technology ethicsHire vocal critics and underwrite new fields of study. Science donors and private charities have also responded, investing hundreds of millions to support independent new innovators and watchdogs in the industry. Co-founder of Independent Technology Research AllianceI’m so excited about growth in these public interest organizations.

But we could easily repeat the public health failures if we replicate similar inequalities in technology governance. Commentators often criticize the lack of diversity of the technology industry, but let’s be honest—Organizations that hold America’s future accountable have a history of our own exclusion. For example, nonprofits often say they seek to serve underserved communities. However, despite being 42 percent of the US population, only 13 percent of nonprofit leaders are Black, Latino, Asian, or Indigenous. Colleges openly honor faculty of color but no progress on faculty diversity. The year I finished my PhD, I just one in 24 Latino/a doctorate in computer science in the United States and Canada, accounted for only 1.5% of the 1,592 doctorates awarded that year. The press also lagging behind other industries in terms of diversity. Instead of facing these facts, many US newsrooms have chosen block 50 years program to monitor and improve newsroom diversity. It is a precarious position from which to demand transparency from Big Tech.

How organizations fail to meet our aspirations for diversity

In the 2010s, when Noble Safiya start investigating Racism in search engine results, computer scientists have been studying search engine algorithms for decades. It took another decade for Noble’s work to become mainstream through her book. Suppression algorithm.

Why has it taken the field so long to notice an issue that affects so many Americans? As one of only seven Black scholars to receive a PhD in Information Science during her year, Noble was able to ask important questions that the predominantly white computer fields could not imagine. Okay.

Stories like Noble’s are so rare in civil society, the press, and academia, despite the public stories our organizations tell of progress on diversity. For example, universities with lower student diversity are more likely to put students of color on their websites and brochures. But you can’t fake it until you make it; The variety of cosmetics turned out to be affect white college hopes but not the Black candidate. (Note, for example, that in the decade since Noble completed her degree, the percentage of doctorates awarded to Black applicants by Information Science programs has not changed.) Worse, illusion of possible inclusion increasing discrimination for people of color. To uncover aesthetic diversity, ask if organizations are selecting the same group of speakers, awardees, and board members. Is the organization raising a few stars instead of investing in deeper change?


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