Equity and Equality

On last weeks debate, we discussed whether or not technology is a force for equity in society. It seems that the debate topics only get harder and harder as our EDTC 400 class progresses.

One of Ryan‘s article made a compelling argument for the pro side. This article stated that there are around a billion people with a disability. According to this world population clock, there are about 7.7 billion people on earth right now. That means that roughly 1/8 of the world’s population has a disability. That is a crazy number for me. Ryan’s article goes on to talk about how technology aids people with disabilities to not only improve their everyday life, it also aids them in the workforce. It even talks about how Steven Hawking, who “is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein“, was diagnosed with neurone disease. When he was no longer able to speak, he used technology to have a voice. Thinking about cases like Steven Hawking, you could definitely say that technology is a force for equity. However, is it the same case for equality?

There is no denying that technology is expensive and not everyone can afford it. Steven Hawking was a renowned physicist who probably had no trouble gaining access to technology to help with his disability, but what about the people who simply can’t afford it? When Katia mentions the LA school district trying to implement a program that gave every student an iPad, it got me thinking. Sure, it would be great to give every student an iPad, but what about after when the student receives it? What happens if the student cannot maintain the iPad? What if the student does not have reliable wifi? What if the student accidentally breaks the iPad, would the student be expected to pay for the replacement? Giving an iPad to every student certainly sounds like equality, but what if they are not given the other necessary resources needed to fully utilize that iPad? Things like no reliable internet connection or prior knowledge on how to use an iPad will create a gap between the privileged and the non-privileged students. Isn’t this the opposite of equality?

The money will always be a con for technology for me and this is a HUGE con for the side of technology being a force of equity. In one of Kaytlyn‘s articles, it states that “Connection to the Internet is not a choice: It is a necessity”, and yet only “45% of households that earned less than $30,000 a year had broadband in their homes”. 

If it is a necessity, why is it not more affordable? In Ryan’s article I talked about earlier, it states that people with disabilities are not as likely to be working. However, if “a million more disabled people could work, the UK economy alone would grow 1.7%, or £45bn ($64bn)”. If the economy will grow when more people with a disability works, isn’t it a worthy investment? While technology can give people opportunities, it can also hinder other’s opportunities. So can we really say that technology is either a force for equity or a hindrance to equity? I really cannot decide on this debate.

 

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