It is time to close the digital divide. A confluence of factors has led to this moment in history—yes, the pandemic, but also a number of other societal impacts and advancing technologies. We are at the precipice of a shift—one where we can come together to redefine our world.

A recent presentation by Microsoft put all the facts out there: 37% of rural Americans still don’t have access to broadband at home. We know 76% of blacks could be shut out or underprepared for 86% of jobs by 2045 due to inadequate connectivity and tech access. Meanwhile, black students are likely to suffer learning loss due to lost quality or no remote instruction during crisis.

Let’s talk about women for a minute. We have said this before, but it is worth repeating again and perhaps again: women’s jobs are more vulnerable to crisis than men’s jobs. In fact, one statistic presented by Microsoft goes on as far as to say women’s roles are 1.8 times more vulnerable than men’s jobs. Add to that the fact that roughly 160 million women globally may need to change jobs due to automation by 2030 and we have a perfect storm brewing.

What is needed is a growing emphasis on human and environmental empathy—and perhaps a little bit of technology added to the mix, as we know 79% of CIOs agree the COVID-19 pandemic will push them to digitally transform faster than planned. Still, while this offers big opportunity, it brings with it its own set of unique challenges. With this, 27% of total roles will be new by 2022, due to technology, and 54% of all employees will require significant reskilling or upskilling by 2022. A whopping 40% of employers report skill shortages will negatively impact their business.

What lies ahead, as Microsoft so eloquently states: A new horizon of uncharted territory and opportunity to change industries, improve lives, and impact society. Let’s talk about how we get there.

What needs to happen is good people and organizations, states, and countries, need to step up and do something about this. Here is just one example. ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) recently released its 2021 State Transportation Electrification Scorecard, which ranks states’ efforts when it comes to electric cars, trucks, buses, and more. While there are a lot of good takeaways in this scorecard—and I encourage you to go check it out—one big component that stood out to me is the fact that every single state can step up to enable equitable, electrified transportation for all.

In a presentation of the data, Shruti Vaidyanathan, transportation program director, ACEEE, says, “Electrified transportation is increasingly considered a key step to reducing transportation-related emissions. ACEEE supports the deployment of EVs in a way that maximizes both social and environmental benefits. For instance, we support the use of electric transit options in historically marginalized communities as a means of improving access to efficient low-carbon transportation options, reducing health impacts from transportation-related pollution, and addressing greenhouse gas emissions.”

We need to be having more conversations like this about how we can enable change in our industries. How can we break down the digital divide? Now that we have set the stage, in the coming weeks, I will continue this focus on systemic change, the digital divide, and where sustainability enters the equation. We will look at what needs to happen in underserved communities, the vulnerable state of women’s jobs, inequity in industries, the need for reskilling and upskilling, and so much more.

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