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Tech and Equality: How 5G Plays a Role in Social Equality

The importance internet connectivity has on people's lives across the income spectrum, in nations around the world, has been forcefully demonstrated during the past two years.

For a short time, high-speed internet was viewed as a luxury, only for the affluent and tech elite. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it became a necessity that should know no barriers – a lifeline for sectors that would deeply be affected by the social distance: education, employment, healthcare, and socializing.

This large-scale version of networking is not bound to disappear. To begin with, if we thought this would be the final time we would shelter in place in large numbers, we could be deluding ourselves. Extreme weather events and pathogens that transmit the disease are becoming more likely because of climate change, and any of these disasters could force us to once again huddle down in front of keyboards and screens, depending on the situation.

It is a high possibility that remote working, distance learning, and other arrangements created due to the pandemic will continually alter how we conduct some of the most basic functions of daily life without the scenarios mentioned before. Long anticipated, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the transition to a technologically advanced civilization.

There's also the coincidence of the COVID-19 epidemic with the rollout of 5G wireless networks and the widespread use of cloud computing and storage. This combination of high-speed networking, robust computation, and practically endless storage capacity—all in one's hand—marks a turning point in how people interact with technology.

A Unique Role for the Tech Industry

The introduction of 5G should also mark a turning point in how technology interacts with people. Those employed in the tech industry have to accept that their professional sector is commonly associated – fairly or unfairly – with the widening gaps in society. These societal gaps include those between the rich and the poor, first-world countries and developing countries, urban and rural areas, individuals with elite educational degrees and those without, and even the tech sector itself and the rest of the economy.

Now is the right time for the tech industry to change the narrative and bend the arc of its history. The tech sector is the least likely to be the source of social change and equality. Still, the advent of 5G and other associated technologies may present a once-in-a-generation opportunity for such advancements to take place.

The tech industry can begin initiating this social change by reminding itself of the principle that the industry is uniquely positioned to provide individuals with the tools needed to engage within their communities and beyond, gain access to an expanded perspective, and become their best selves. The tech industry must also embrace its role in making this course of action an equitable, open, and inclusive promise that does not leave anyone behind and reflects on its commitment to everything it does.

To reduce social inequalities, increase digital access.

The good news for the tech industry is that it now has a proper foundation for establishing this digital inclusivity. According to the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union, in the last 15 years, the percentage of people with internet access increased significantly, rising from 17% to over 50%.

That encouraging result, however, masks significant differences and persistent disparities. Over 80% of people in Europe have an internet connection, compared to less than 30% of people in Africa. In many nations, there are also evident gender disparities in access.

The industry must make addressing these disparities, both between and within nations, a primary priority, as they have a variety of incentives to make this happen.

Dismantling the Barriers to Tech Inclusivity

The evolving economics of technological access will be a powerful friend in this endeavor. Simply put, technology is growing more affordable while also getting more powerful.

Here's just one illustration of how this incredible combination functions. Mobile-edge computing, or MEC, is one of the technological advancements made feasible by 5G. MEC essentially deals with deploying cloud storage capacity at the network's edge.

Devices like laptops, tablets, and phones can be smaller and less expensive with so much storage readily available on the network because they no longer need to contain a lot of storage. After all, the network now handles it.

The effects of this change could be enormous. The arrival of something like MEC vastly expands the potential of such efforts as providing high-speed network technologies to under-resourced school districts or neighborhoods.

However, such drastic democratization of technology access will not occur independently. When it comes to utilizing the potential of their products and services to break down barriers and combat injustice, those in the IT sector must be very deliberate.

According to many, the growing levels of social and economic inequality have practically become synonymous with the tech business sector. They now have a unique chance to write a brand-new chapter for themselves and the world we live in.

Learn more about 5G.

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