Frances West Tells Us About Authentic Inclusion, Women in Tech and Digital Transformation

September 22, 2020

This is part of our Dialogue on Digital Transformation series, in advance of the upcoming 2020 Network Readiness Index. 

Frances West is a global thought leader in digital inclusion and accessibility. Formerly the Chief Accessibility Officer at IBM, West was also the first female technologist to speak about digital inclusion at the UN, and has testified to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject. West is also the author of “Authentic Inclusion™ Drives Disruptive Innovation” and the founder of FrancesWestCo. Watch her TED talk here.

Frances West tells our CEO Carolina Rossini how to push for Authentic Inclusion™ in the age of COVID-19. In this interview, West explains the ways in which COVID-19 has accelerated the pace, the reach of digital transformation, and the importance of inclusivity by design in digital infrastructure.

West also reminds us that technologist and humanist sectors don’t often see eye-to-eye. For her, technological progress that doesn’t put people first is “old-school thinking…[because]  COVID-19 has pushed humanity to the front and center. And I think we are absolutely capable of making what I call technology-made-human, especially in a time like this.”

For West, reskilling and upskilling are more important than ever. She says that this brings “immense opportunity”. While individuals need to be ready to relearn and adapt to the digital future, institutions and organizations have the responsibility to enable their employees’ learning.

As a woman in tech, West applauds the wave of young women moving into the digital accessibility arena “with a passion to make technology purposeful and meaningful… and to see it in a context that helps underserved populations.” According to West, “this is a time when we can actually level the playing field… and learn from each other.”

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