Join the University of Chicago and University of California Santa Barbara in Chicago on November 15, 2021 for the Internet Frontier and Opportunities workshop. This invite-only workshop will bring together leaders in industry, academia, and government and provide an environment for robust discussion between experts in computer science, healthcare, education, public policy, and economics.
The goal of the Internet Frontiers and Opportunities workshop is to create a bold shared vision for a center of innovation that will catalyze new ideas, collaborations, and solutions to counter Internet inequity at a global scale. It facilitates interdisciplinary work among researchers (faculty members, students, postdoctoral scholars) and practitioners (industry, government, non-profit).
We will convene leaders from academia, industry, and government to discuss and define some of the most pressing challenges concerning Internet equity and create a vision and roadmap for launching a new collaborative approach to solving these challenges.
Motivation: As of 2018, 24 million Americans have no broadband Internet access. In the face of modern natural disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internet is showing its cracks not in the protocols or infrastructure, but in the lack of equitable access across America’s diverse places and populations. As the cornerstones of our nation move online—from education to healthcare to agriculture and innovation— the well-known “digital divide” is becoming more consequential as a vector of inequality. This divide becomes even more pronounced in times of natural disaster, when citizens may rely almost exclusively on Internet communications for many critical aspects of daily life.
To better understand these challenges, critical research and innovation is required to ensure broadband connectivity for unserved and underserved American communities. The workshop will explore connectivity by addressing the following themes:
- Theme One – Education: 12 million children face the so-called “homework gap”—barriers to completing schoolwork without reliable home Internet access. This barrier disproportionately hurts low-income families and minorities, for example in Chicago, approximately 1 in 5 primarily Black or Latinx children lack access to broadband. With the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting many low-income and minority groups, the families and communities who were already the most vulnerable may now face even more challenges during a long-term economic recession.
- Theme Two – Agriculture: Farms could contribute billions more dollars to the U.S. economy with the help of precision agriculture technology, but this can’t happen without connectivity and reliable last-mile Broadband solutions. Recent reports have indicated that almost two-thirds of farmers don’t have adequate Internet connectivity to run their businesses and innovate.
- Theme Three – Healthcare: As healthcare increasingly moves into the digital age, there is a significant proportion of the most vulnerable Americans that lack access to telehealth. For example, Medicaid and Medicare recipients make up two-thirds of those without access to the internet at home. How do we ensure that advances in telemedicine and remote care serve the most vulnerable populations?
This convening is open to all invitees who are compliant with UChicago vaccination requirements and, because of ongoing health risks, particularly to the unvaccinated, participants are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures (masking and social distancing, etc.) appropriate to their vaccination status as advised by public health officials or to their individual vulnerabilities as advised by a medical professional. Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.”