The Digital Divide is Shrinking: It's Time to Develop Technologies for a Global Marketplace

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The need for technologies developed with a thriving global marketplace in mind has never been greater.

By Dr. Laurelle Jno Baptiste (Founder & COO, ScholarLab)

As a technology developer, you’re always on the lookout for the game-changer. You keep your finger on the pulse of global politics, media, technology and development, waiting to see how it might affect your next move. Watching global economic growth is one of the things that keeps me up at night — in a good way. With the many rising economies across the world, I find myself faced with three realities: more competition, more innovation and more potential markets.

The need for technologies developed with a thriving global marketplace in mind has never been greater. The rate of Internet connection is skyrocketing at a pace that shows no signs of slowing down. Just recently in fact, the Guardian reported on Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, a team of people that includes experts from NASA who are working on new aerospace and communications technologies to try to expand global Internet access. This heightened connectivity is the game-changer we look out for. With it, the spirit of innovation has decidedly gone global.

Access to Technology ≠ Personal Computer

The Digital Divide was one of the key buzzwords of the early 2000s, showing us the importance of access in the modern economy. Amidst access to health care, basic needs and education, access to technology has become a key factor in an individual’s ability to thrive in what is now a hyper-connected, globalized world.

The term was popular during a period when access to digital technology was synonymous with access to a personal computer, but it’s been redefined by a steady stream of game-changing tech advancements -- mobile technologies in particular. These technologies have been critical catalysts for social reforms and economic growth in most corners of the globe. Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, hosts the world’s fastest growing mobile phone, tablet and laptop markets. China and India have birthed sizeable middle classes that will exacerbate product consumption and thus, economic growth.

Developing Nations are Catching up Faster Than Ever

In a digital age, the distinct sense of a “catch-up factor” — an opportunity for developing nations to step up as major players in the global economy — has unquestionably emerged. With a greater access to technology than ever before, individuals across the world are young, innovative, educated and ready to level the playing field.

For me, it’s a simple if-then proposition:

If the Digital Divide continues to shrink as a result of increasing access to technologies, then the expanding marketplace will continue to grow. The question is, are we developing inclusive technologies for our emerging client-base? Are we taking a hard look at our fastest growing markets and building technologies for these markets? The simple fact is this: Building inclusive technologies will be a major factor in how successful our companies become in the future.

The Secret to Building Inclusive Technology

What’s not so simple is how to build these technologies.

The thing about diverse technologies is that they’re often built by teams who understand diversity. For me this is not just a theory, but a working proof. In my own company, diversity has been a key building block to our success. Our Toronto office alone is home to employees from the U.S., Dominica, France, Korea, Pakistan, Jamaica, Germany and Canada.

We knew we wanted to develop technologies for a global market, building multilingual capabilities into our systems and continuously leveraging the expertise and learning styles of our culturally diverse staff. Because of this, we can compete globally and I do believe that our core value of diversity has added to our ability to develop superior learning and communication technologies as well.

It’s rare in the tech industry — amidst its constant evolution — to proclaim that the time is decidedly now. Inclusion and diversity are two concepts that will help build sustainable technologies for a global marketplace. If that’s not a game-changer, I don’t know what is.

What are other key factors to developing global inclusive technologies?


About the guest blogger: Dr. Laurelle Jno Baptiste is an award-winning entrepreneur and innovator in online learning and communication technologies. She is the co-founder and COO of ScholarLab.com, a mobile friendly platform that instantly snaps together online multimedia, collaborative e-learning authoring, and real-time communications applications and is accessed by almost a million learners in 50+ countries. In 2013, she was chosen as one of Canada's top women in technology and is considered one of the leaders of online education in North America. She has won numerous awards for technology and innovation, and advises educational institutions and technology associations worldwide.