And as I write this in the wake of the violence our country has experienced recently, I have seen many on social media who are questioning whether many of the same technologies that our clients use to try to solve problems are making those problems worse.
As the CEO of a civic-focusedÂ mobile publishingÂ platform, I spend my days workingÂ with officials and organizationsÂ who are committed to addressingÂ inequity, who want to better their communityÂ andÂ who work tirelessly to remove barriers to make opportunities andÂ services more accessible.
And as I write thisÂ in the wakeÂ of the violence our country has experienced recently, I have seen many on social media who are questioningÂ Â whetherÂ many of the same technologies that our clients use to try to solve problems are making those problemsÂ worse.
The widespread adoption of the internet and smart phones has resultedÂ in multipleÂ worldwide networks and platforms like Twitter, FacebookÂ and Reddit, where citizens disconnected by geography are connected virtually. And through these platforms, each of usÂ can become citizen journalists in the midst of unfolding events when we publish ourÂ own first-hand accounts, photos and videos through these virtual channels.
From the viral spread ofÂ the recentÂ graphicÂ Facebook LiveÂ videoÂ of a woman documenting the aftermath of a police shootingÂ to theÂ horrifying images and videoÂ of snipers gunning down and killing multipleÂ police officers during what was a peaceful demonstration in Dallas, there is no doubt thatÂ technology has transformed usÂ into virtualÂ witnesses ofÂ history in the making.
I am reminded of the story shared byÂ Andres Montoya-Hernandez at PDF Forum in 2015 about ordinaryÂ citizens in Mexico and South America who used social media to fill the gaps of information to help others avoid the violence of drug cartels.Â
While these platforms have provided a means to document and witness violence and tragedy as it unfolds,Â itÂ has also scaled the reach of voices who choose to use these channels toÂ perpetuate and promoteÂ extremist positions, fomentÂ anger and hatred, andÂ deepenÂ lines of division.
It's easier than ever toÂ immerse ourselves withinÂ virtual cocoons where the only ones allowed in areÂ those who look like us, think like us, believe like us. WeÂ can share news stories,Â videos and soundÂ bites thatÂ over-simplify and polarize without ever havingÂ to digest or even encounterÂ differing points of view.
For myself, as a participant within the quickly growing civic tech and gov tech industries, my network is filled with individuals in my own community and across the globe who areÂ focusedÂ on inclusion,Â diversity and using technology toÂ createÂ more opportunities for those who need it the most.
Advancements in technology, from smart city innovations like street lights equipped sounds sensors to detect gunshots to open data portals creatingÂ more transparancy and information, all provideÂ newÂ opportunities and methods ofÂ addressingÂ today's social and civic issues.
My own city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been a leaderÂ in some of these solutions,Â such as theÂ Racial Equity Here initiative,Â will use data and technology toÂ improve racial equity and opportunities. Others are just plain good ideas that are being being adopted in other communities, likeÂ There's a Better Way, which takes pan handlers off of city streets by providing paid day labor opportunities through the city.
We each have to choice about whether we useÂ today's technology to perpetuate bias and divisionÂ or whether we use our voice and efforts for good.Â
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