Show Notes

In this episode, Samah and Michelle talk about the digital divide – what it is, who it affects, and how it affects people on both sides. They discuss how lack of access is not a reflection on intelligence or ability, in spite of what politicians and those with privilege may think.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:27] Speaker B: Hello, Samah, how are you?


[00:00:30] Speaker A: I’m good. Hello, my lovely Michelle. How are you?


[00:00:33] Speaker B: I’m good. I can’t believe that we will be together in person this time next week. And when people hear this, because we’ve actually recorded this ahead of time, we will already be. If you’re listening to this, we are already at Wordcamp Europe. We are in Torino.


[00:00:47] Speaker A: So yeah, I’m really happy. I cannot wait. We’re traveling with the bus, the whole Yoast team. So it’s going to be 11 hours on the bus, and we’ll have fun. And oh my God, I cannot wait to see all the people I love in the WordPress community.


[00:01:03] Speaker B: I can’t go by bus. It would be very watery. I could go by submarine, maybe by boat. But I’m. I will go by airplane because it’ll be the fastest for me.


[00:01:12] Speaker A: I have amazing skill; it is my skill. I can sleep anywhere. So, 11 hours. I’m going to sleep 10 hours from them.


[00:01:20] Speaker B: So put on your headphones, maybe an eye mask, like a light.


[00:01:25] Speaker A: I’m only gonna wake up. I’m gonna wake up for food and say, hi, how are you? And that’s it.


[00:01:31] Speaker B: Give me my sandwich. I’m going back to sleep now. Yeah, I love it. I love that we’re in Torino and that we have all these wonderful experiences. One of the things that I love when you send me articles that we can think about in advance, is that I hadn’t thought about this subject in quite a while because it was something that was talked about even like 20 years ago. We talked about the digital divide. That’s hard to say. Digital divide and what it means. Basically, it’s going back to talking about the haves and the have-nots, so people who have access to technology and wi-fi and all of the things that we think of as our digital lives and then the people who do not or have limited access. And, you know, 20 years ago, I think perhaps the divide was. Was greater than it is now. Things are much more accessible publicly, at least in some places. Absolutely. I’m not speaking for every place in the world, but when I think of how it relates to WordPress as well. And the idea of democratizing publishing. It’s only truly democratized if people have access to the tools that WordPress provides. So I just love the article that you sent me. So tell us a little bit about why you chose this topic today and what are your thoughts for me?


[00:02:59] Speaker A: I chose this topic today because, honestly, I think in my youth, I was really affected by it. But now I realize it because how can I say it? I grew up in the Middle East. Technology came to us very late in life, even as I studied IT Engineering. But the things I was studying at university, I think it was in other countries, in the States, in Europe, they already had it ten years ago because I remember we started with C++. You’re talking about 2008, 2007. So that was a little bit backward. Also, at the same time, I remember there was a degree CCNA, the certificate of Cisco Certified Network Associate that started to open in 2009. I think people had it at the beginning of 2000. So, I think that holds a lot back. And also at the same time, if you’re going talk about the differences between social classes rich and poor people, because in the old times not everyone could afford a laptop, a computer and even, let’s be honest, also at the same time in Europe, like 25 years ago, buying a computer, it was kind of luxury, it was not a must in life. While now, everyone can have access. Of course, I’m not going to say everyone can easily afford a Mac, but you can afford something affordable in 200-300 Euros that you can use. In the past, that was really mission impossible. Yeah, I chose this topic because I was reading about it, and I was really shocked that even today there’s worldwide like 52% of women are affected by it, and almost 42% of men worldwide are affected by it. And I think it’s a really good topic to talk about because most people, when we talk about the differences between men and women or ethnicity, always forget also the social classes and the people of color. 

They don’t have the same comfort financially as, let’s say, white people, and that also affects them and reach technology or affording it. But that doesn’t mean they’re not; how can I say it? Everyone is smart, just like where you grow up, what you get an education, and what was given to you. I don’t think the thing is that community holds people to get a better job, hold people to get a better life. It also helps in dividing society more and more between the color of your skin or your ethnic background or where you live if you live in a bigger city, if you live in an even better neighborhood, because some around the world still a better neighborhood can get better Internet. And sadly, I can see it in where I live. We have a fiber optic 5G. It’s fast, quickly. But some parts don’t have it. Even this sounds very simple, like, oh, but they have access to the Internet. But it’s different. You have to wait half an hour to get information, or you need to get a better connection, or I can get it in 1 minute or less, of course, 10 seconds. Yeah. So I love the subject.


Yeah. Also, the number really, really, really blew off my mind that even the number was the best country around the world, the States. 93.4% of people said they aren’t affected, but still, like 7%. Correct me if I’m wrong, but 380 million people are in the States, and 8% is huge. Number. Like, it’s really massive. A huge number. Yeah, right.


[00:07:08] Speaker B: It still is. A very large number, for sure. I think about perception as well. So, you know, 20 years ago, I was working in higher education, and I was the admissions director for the school of education. So we were preparing, not teachers, because we were the graduate school that was preparing administrators and school psychiatrists or psychologists and counselors. And we had to address this topic because there’s so much that comes with the perception of how students have access or do not have access, and that if you don’t have access like you said, if I don’t have access to technology, does that make me dumb or stupid? Of course not. It just means that perhaps I’m less educated in that area because I don’t have access to it. It’s like I did not start driving a car until I was 18 years old. I could have started driving a car at 16 years old, but I didn’t have a car to drive. So, what was the point of trying to get a license when I couldn’t practice? I couldn’t use that license. I had nothing to take the test with.


So that was just two years. But it gives you the idea, like, well, I didn’t have a car. That didn’t mean I didn’t know how to drive a car or couldn’t learn how to drive a car when I finally got behind the wheel.


I was absolutely capable of driving a car. People without technology can use it once they have it in their hands and can learn it. Interestingly, just last month, Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York State, where I live, made this statement.


I think she was trying to be helpful, but she still missed the mark. But she said, right now, we have young black kids growing up in the Bronx, which is a borough of New York City, who don’t even know what the word computer is. They don’t know. She said they didn’t know these things at a Milken Institute global conference. Now, I strongly disagree.


Children in the Bronx, whether they are Black students, White students, Hispanic students, or of any ethnicity, absolutely know what the word computer is. And my goodness, Cathy, they would recognize one if they saw it.


What an asinine thing for her to say, of course.


But it just really further cements that people with privilege make assumptions about what they assume privilege means in other areas, that if you aren’t privileged to own a computer, you must not even know what it is. And that was just such. Oh, my gosh, such a misstep on her part.


What can you even say for sure? She’s a million apologies.


If you google her, you will see her being embarrassed and trying to apologize for that. But the damage is done when you say words like that when you say things like that because it matters. It matters how people in power and authority discuss topics that have to do with others, especially when they think that those others have less privilege, whether true or not, and how you assume that privilege affects knowledge. And that’s, to me, just such a, such a misnomer. I know that I talk about WordPress and democratizing.


Democratizing publishing. Yes.


You know, and if you don’t have access, you don’t. But I also think about the fact that I have seen so many things on social media, and we talk about TikTok all the time. I’ve seen it on TikTok. I’ve seen in other places where somebody is. We call it food stamps here in the UK. I think they call it the dole, whatever it is, public assistance. When you are getting public assistance for food, for any of your life needs, and somebody is looking for a job, and they have a smartphone in their hand, people with privilege will look at that and say, why does she need food stamps if she can afford an iPhone? Well, how is that person supposed to get a job? How is that person supposed to stay connected to their children’s school? How are any of those things? How are you supposed to if you don’t have a phone? And yes, flip phones still exist. But if that person also doesn’t have a computer, now they are doing all of their job applications on that phone. And let’s not be; let’s be realistic: you can buy a phone on a phone plan and pay $ 30 a month. It doesn’t mean you came up with 1000 or $1,500 out of pocket or sold your food stamps to get it. So, the perception of it is also very harmful to so many people.


[00:12:13] Speaker A: I agree with you. And for me, the thing is, sometimes 20 years ago or maybe 10 years ago, to have a phone, to have your own laptop, maybe I’m talking about where I’m coming from. It’s a luxury, but now it’s a must in life. I will talk about Europe. Everything is online. Reaching your healthcare system, making an appointment with the doctor, even getting a tax authorization letter- everything is online. I cannot afford not to have a good computer. And also I need something that’s really fast, works quickly. I don’t need something that it will be. That’s why you make good investments. But of course, people, when you look at it, as you said, like with the iPhone, as you say, the plan. That is the thing people immediately look at and judge when the phone is a must. And you need it; you need it in your daily life for access.


Talking about her name is.


[00:13:17] Speaker B: The governor.


[00:13:19] Speaker A: Yeah.


[00:13:19] Speaker B: Kathy Hochul. Yeah.


[00:13:21] Speaker A: I think she was trying to say that because I think she was trying it very positively, but it just came out wrongly. And I think that is powerful. When you have a platform, be careful what you’re saying. But I also think having a privilege in life can give you a better education. If you go to a very good university, if your family can afford to give you the best equipment and education, of course. At the same time, I will speak about some cultures. I know the Netherlands. The Netherlands has some, let’s say. I don’t want to say some comfortable neighborhoods, some areas, and some uncomfortable neighborhoods. You can see the houses’ sizes, even the houses close to each other or there’s a nice big house. As if I were talking with someone, I was shocked that the governmental schools in the rich areas are better than those in the poor areas.


And it’s so shocking that it’s the same city. It’s only about 15 minutes away from driving. But because the government is doing this, how can I say? Even the municipality or the people of that area are paying more money so the school can get better for their own kids, while, let’s say, in the other area, the kids are not getting the same treatment. And shockingly and sadly, in the rich area, most of the people, 99%, are white. The other area is, let’s say, the mixed race, or let’s say the people coming outside, refugees, Turkish ethnic backgrounds, African backgrounds, or South American backgrounds. So you can find them all in one area. And that is sometimes. Yeah, it’s. Of course, I believe where you grow up can affect your education, but also that because of the digital divide, even in that area I’m talking about, I was really shocked. When you pass it, your phone is becoming less different. It’s 4G. When I go on my side, it’s 5G. And I was telling my husband, this is crazy. I know there’s not a lot of difference. I’m not talking about third-world countries or outside of Europe when you have 2G and 3G. yeah, I’m sorry, you can notice those things. But absolutely, it totally exists, the digital divide. And I think it’s also possible if someone starts pointing out why this group of people are not on the same as the other group because of this, because they don’t have the technology or don’t have the same privileges. I talked so much today. I’m sorry.


[00:16:11] Speaker B: I love it. No, I love it.


Sometimes, we come up with ideas that can be solutions to problems. Like we talk about, companies can do better. We talk about other topics that we’ve had. I don’t know what the solution is for the digital divide. I think if anybody leaves this podcast, listening to it today, with at least one idea, I would hope that it would be judge not, do not judge people for their lack of access to technology or tools, to Wifi, all of those things. There are remote parts of every country, the United States included, where they will not be able to unless they have a really good satellite, like a satellite dish, and good weather. There are places I drive through, even in my own region, not my particular hometown, but within an hour of where I am, where I lose all cell service. And so in those areas, if there isn’t cable, those people also don’t have access to the Internet. And so there are so many places that are not even. You don’t have to go that far to find them, is what I’m trying to say, where people don’t have access just because of their geolocation, not even their socioeconomic status, not even their ethnicity or any of those other things that sometimes come into play.


So, never judge somebody because of the technology they have or don’t have. And if you have it within your capability to help.


My cat is meowing. I don’t know if you can hear her. She is very mad at me that I won’t let her in front of the camera right now. But if you have it within your power to lobby, to ask, to sign petitions, whatever it is, to help, and maybe even to buy technology for somebody that you know is struggling and to help them get ahead in life, I think those are all good things that we can do, but at the very least understand where people are coming from and don’t judge them for it.


[00:18:14] Speaker A: Absolutely. I think because all of us are smart, all of us if we get the same equal treatment in life, all of us someone gives us the same education, all of us will be the same. Still, I believe people work harder than others, but that doesn’t mean you are based on your color scheme or where you are coming from. It’s like how life navigates you and the circumstances where you grow up. I have access to technology. It was easy for you to go to school. Your family can help you afford it or not.


And yes, absolutely, do not judge; just understand, because I think there are a lot of people do.


Funny story: My husband works with the ICRC, an international committee of the Red Cross, and they have one program that connects people. People sometimes lose each other in war zones or become refugees in other countries. And I was shocked. I was talking with someone, by the way, and this program touched my heart because there was a story about how they connected a family mother with her two kids after 13 years. That person immediately came and asked me, well, they don’t have each other on Facebook.


And I was like, oh my goodness. Places in the world they don’t have the luxury of having food three times a day.


They don’t know whether it’s the phone or the iPhone because it’s not on their own priority list. Their priority list is to survive for food and bring their family food. And if someone is scared they don’t have a healthcare system, they have to sell things to afford it for them. So. And it was like a shocking reality for me. Like what? How does that even come to your mind? They can connect via Facebook and me. I was replying; the kids were four, and the other one was seven years old. And then they don’t have a phone. And I was like, no, no.


[00:20:18] Speaker B: Yeah.


[00:20:18] Speaker A: I said they don’t have a phone. Yeah, yeah.


They used to have a Nokia phone. Like, but then I said, like, bad, bad joke. Yeah. But people worldwide still try to put themselves in other people’s shoes.


See it from different corners. What sometimes we consider normal. It’s from a lot of people. It’s a luxury to have our technology and education. access some people around the world, they cannot open some websites, let’s say whatever, it’s been blocked by their government or also that’s some factor, the education has been blocked, or some countries banned social media so that all of this can add it to many factors. And that led to their having less knowledge, not because they’re not smart, but sadly, they didn’t have the information.


[00:21:15] Speaker B: That’s right. If you don’t have access, you don’t have information. And information is absolutely power. Interestingly, you said something about it. It’s not that people are lazy. As a matter of fact, some of the laziest people I’ve ever encountered are the most privileged because they’ve never had to work for anything. And so they don’t understand what hard work looks like and how people have to hustle to afford the things they have in their lives and to afford technology. And it’s easy for people with privilege also to say things like, they can just go to the library. There are computers there, okay? But the library is only open at certain hours of the day. The library only has a limited number of access points. The library isn’t someplace where you can just be comfortable and have a snack while doing your work and all those things. So that. So, while there are sometimes points of access that people may be able to use, that also isn’t the same solution. It still is part of the divide. It’s perhaps, you know, it’s. It’s maybe like the rope bridge as opposed to a nice, big, fat bridge that’s filling in that gap.


It’s. It’s a lifeline, but it certainly isn’t the answer. So I just wanted to throw that out there, too, because I know that there are people like, well, there are places they can go, and there are Internet cafes. There’s all that. Okay, first of all, there’s no such thing as an Internet cafe in most places anymore. Maybe those things don’t exist anymore in other countries in the United States because most people have technology here. And so don’t say that those are things people can use. Yes, children sometimes have access to school. Yes, children sometimes. And by children, I don’t mean the youngest; I mean the students who need technology to do their research and do those things at the library and other places. But it’s not the same as having access at home and being able to do the work within a comfortable and nurturing environment within their family units.


[00:23:10] Speaker A: So anyway, I take it.


[00:23:14] Speaker B: Enough, I’m sure.


[00:23:15] Speaker A: But no, for me, I think if I have, I don’t have kids, but if, even if me, if I was my twenties and I have to go to the library at night and use the computer or my teens use the computer and go home at night, I will never do it. I would be scared to go home. So also, like, like I always think from around, like I look at, trying to look at the things from all different corners, it just like it’s so easy to tell someone, do something, just try to put yourself in their shoes for a while and try to think how that will make you feel. And what are the obstacles? Because there are a million obstacles. And as you said, like, yeah, definitely, if a student is sitting in their home, doing their homework, using the technology or doing it somewhere else, yeah, the Internet cafe, I think they even disappeared from the third world countries. Believe me, they are just gone. This was like last century’s trend.


[00:24:17] Speaker B: And I recently saw somebody who is a friend on Facebook because I had done a photo shoot for this person once upon a time post that their job had been eliminated. They weren’t fired, but their position was eliminated. They are a single parent of two children and now need to find another job. But they didn’t have a car, and their computer had died. So they wanted to be able to work from home because the lack of a car makes it difficult. And there are lots of jobs, you can work from home, but they don’t even have a computer to be able to do that. So, all that they were doing was from their phone. And so they were trying to do something like a GoFundMe, asking people to help because they were literally at the point of not knowing how to provide for their family. And you know, that’s within 20 minutes drive from my house, that person is. And so I look at those kinds of things, and I think about how sad it is that there are opportunities right here. And yes, I helped the person. In case you’re all going, well, why didn’t you do it? Of course, I helped that person because I had the privilege of being able to do it.


And I’m not looking for a pat on the back. I’m just trying to show how it is not around the world. It is not, you know, in places that are unexplored. It is literally in everybody’s backyard that we have a digital divide. So, definitely look for opportunities to make the world a better place.


[00:25:49] Speaker A: Yeah, hopefully. Yeah.


I’m gonna make you laugh. I know we’re talking very serious. I dream of turning on the TV one day, and there’s no news. Everyone is happy. Everyone gets equal treatment. And we’re talking about the carnival, the new concerts, and what kind of flowers. Hopefully, one day, the world will be less divided by digital.


[00:26:15] Speaker B: Yes, I agree. I also hope that happens. We can perhaps watch it together. We could stream Taylor Swift’s old age tour together. I don’t know, or something like that. Anyway. And that’s a nod to Kathy Zant, who is swift. Anyway, when you hear from us next, we will record at WordCamp Europe. That episode will come out next week.


I know I said we’re technically there now, but, you know, we’re not really. We’re not. We’re recording this in advance. So I can’t wait to see you next week. I can’t wait to see you in Torino. And who knows what we’ll talk about when we’re there. But we will have an episode for next week, and then we will have a couple of weeks where we are both on vacation opposite each other. And so, we’ll just reshare some old episodes for those weeks. So we won’t be gone. We will be coming back, but we will be taking a well-needed break from work following some travel. But we will see you all next week from Torino, and then we will see you again in July. So.


[00:27:24] Speaker A: Bye, everybody. Bye, everyone. Bye.


Michelle Frechette

Michelle Frechette


Samah Nasr

Samah Nasr