Public health has been successful in improving millions of lives, but it has failed to address health disparities amongst people of color. The technology industry has proposed a public health model of digital governance to prevent future crises and support societal well-being. However, both public health and technology have systematically failed marginalized communities. Covid-19 policies were not designed for communities of color, medical devices were not designed for their bodies, and health programs were no match for the inequalities that exposed them to greater risk. The tech industry has also encoded inequalities into its systems and institutions. As a result, there is a growing movement for technology governance, but there is a risk of reproducing the same inequality within the field if diversity and inclusion are not addressed.
Nonprofits claim to serve marginalized communities, yet only 13% of nonprofit leaders are Black, Latino, Asian, or Indigenous, despite them accounting for 42% of the US population. Universities publicly celebrate faculty of color, but progress on faculty diversity has been slow. Journalism also lags behind other sectors on diversity, with newsrooms choosing to block a 50-year program to track and improve diversity. The lack of diversity in these institutions contributes to slow progress on recognizing issues affecting people of color. In contrast, computer scientist Safiya Noble began investigating racism in search engine results, but her work only reached the mainstream a decade later. Noble is one of only seven Black scholars to receive Information Science PhDs in her year, highlighting the lack of diversity in computing fields.
Institutions often use cosmetic diversity to create an illusion of inclusivity. However, this can increase discrimination for people of color. To address diversity and inclusion, institutions need to invest in deeper change and choose different people to be speakers, award-winners, and board members. Without addressing diversity and inclusion, the technology industry risks reproducing the same inequalities that public health has failed to address.