The disappearing digital divide?
I live in a beautiful town called Standish, Michigan. Our total population is around 1400 people, and the majority of our population are farmers. That is to include the majority of my family who lives around our home here.
Growing up, this was where I would come home for the Summers living abroad, as my father would joke, to learn more about the family business. My father married my mother, joined the Air Force, and then left to travel the world. He had entertained coming back home throughout my formative years, but there was not much work for a very geeky radio and electronics engineer, so he didn’t.
One other super geeky older cousin in my extensive German family introduced me to the TRS80 (I was a Commodore kid) and the cassette player storage medium. He grew up continuing to hone his geeky street cred and then, much like my father, left. There was just no work for a computer engineer here.
I use these two examples to explain what, traditionally, has been a significant digital divide. There was only dial-up internet here well into 2010, and as a byproduct, anyone with a technical background very often left. I have blogged extensively about the perils of my internet situation even now (Dual-WAN, QoS), and I am probably one of the best setups in the county. I sit eagerly by the T-mobile 5G rollout, Starlink, etc., but with COVID-19, I have been working as a CTO in rural Michigan, and you know what, it is doable.
A few days ago, a dear friend of mine sent me a message about the vastness of photos I sent of my daughter. Given the amount of nerdiness I barely manage to contain in my bubble, she will likely end up with some of these tendencies. It is also just as feasible her face will continue to light up at the sight of tractors until her adult years, and she takes on farming. My point is, though, she and other kids in rural America, when provided with good internet, don’t have to leave anymore.
I think there are so many benefits from travelling and meeting the world first-hand, but I also find solace in the community I call home. Each has its place, and I am thankful that my daughter and others like her will have the ability to have both of these things be an option.
I am a silver lining kind of person, and maybe with COVID-19, the world has realised that there is more to it than just significant cities as big as the world is. I am not arguing for one or the other, I equally am happy and exist in both, but I am more pointing out how exciting it is that it’s no longer a binary decision as it once was. A kid can grow-up outside of a major city and still have the opportunity to be part of this connected society.
As geeks, we should do our part to ensure the internet is no longer a luxury but a right and that our mission should be to connect everyone to this fascinating ecosystem we built. Let’s encourage our politicians and volunteer our time to make this a reality. Everyone should have the opportunity to have this be their Zoom background, and it not just be some file they upload.