Written by Kike Oniwinde, Founder & CEO, BYP Network.
2020 was a traumatic year for Black communities. We experienced negligence throughout systems that do not have our best interests at heart. As a result, our focus has been on caring for our lives. We must consider the future impact of COVID on our community. The technological advancements of society and how we can operate around them. We must take the initiative to use the future for our collective benefit. It is no secret that Black workers make up a disproportionate number of key workers that essentially operate on the frontline. The disproportionate deaths and negligence is not merely by work, but highlights socio-economic disparities such communities face. A study last year recognised that Black people were 4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than white. This alerted the public to mass systematic incompetence by racism, as reported in The Guardian. A majority of Black people in the UK live in London or cities where they continued to work to put food on the tables despite the high Covid ‘R’ numbers. Many don’t have the privilege of a second home in the countryside, or a chalet in France to escape to or any widespread option to up and leave behind their work and homes. Instead, we have to deal with the pandemic within the constraints of a flawed system.
We also faced discriminatory stop and search, with fines being handed out much more to Black and Asian people in contrast to white. Addressing such saw hate crime increase, after the Black Lives Matter protests. In all, there has been an understandable distrust from Black communities with the healthcare system on the vaccine. Life is changing, and we need to be smart and acknowledge how it is for us. There have been two COVIDs. The rich and privileged are able to navigate the pandemic and profit, and the poor and disadvantaged lose out. They are persecuted, losing jobs, having to deal with over pressured NHS services and experience the brunt of COVID. Furlough and job scarcity has become common. 10% of Londoners workers have been furloughed. London has been the worst hit city during COVID. Drop in employment for Black & Asian people is 26 times more than white, echoing the racist system. Black & Asian businesses struggled to receive COVID support to maintain themselves.
Despite all of this, there is an even greater threat to the Black Community - a digital world that we are not part of. This digital transformation has encouraged businesses, Governments, and people to shift their thinking on a technological revolution. Artificial intelligence has always been used in society but has extended usage in new ways. Specifically, in job applications, identification, and tracking COVID. Due to a lack of face-to-face operations, such have become necessary. Algorithms that identify suitable applicants are run by A.I. It assumes the most appropriate candidates. As reported here, such systems favour white men, Black people will lose out. Facial recognition systems have been implemented in the UK, utilising Japanese technology from NEC, a company specialising in it. This technology is used by the MET Police to track people on watchlists. It can even analyse people behind facemasks. Again, the controversial issue here is the tech isn’t designed for darker shades of skin. We can easily misunderstand this new digital age in the same way our parents are not so fluid with new technology, unable to use the latest app or mobile. In the same manner, we can be left behind by not understanding the tech itself. The upskilling we need to undergo as a community would see more Black people in tech. Currently, the Black community makes up only 2% of those working in the STEM field. Education is needed to diversify the industry and we need our ideas to be implemented in these fields to determine the outcome of the tech that imposes on our lives.
The best way to understand how this will impact our community is to engage with people already prevalent and interested in these fields. The BYP Network ‘’Our Digital Future Summit’’ is a must attend event that will provide this space. A spread of professionals from the field of tech addressing intriguing questions about the state of things, the future, and intertwining it with the reality of our community. Discussions and answers will be provided on glaring questions like ‘’will Robots take my job?’’ – ‘’How do we upskill for the future?’’ and generally discussing how to prepare for now. We must take the initiative with the future of the Black community and learn about how it will exist by teaching each other from an unbiased POV. Utilising such spaces will enable us to learn how to deal with Society’s growth, ensuring we do not go missing. Our Digital Future Summit is truly an event by us, and for us. Click here to be part of the future.