Remote work & digital inclusion: a crucial relationship
There’s no doubt that remote work can help bridge the digital skills gap and foster a strong, digitally inclusive environment.
What is digital inclusion?
Digital inclusion is more than just having internet connectivity. It’s about providing adequate education and training to those who may lack literacy skills, access to hardware and software, as well as modern-day technology and services. We live in a society where technology continues to evolve rapidly. If we’re not prepared to reach out and help one another, those who need help the most will fall further and further behind.
Now, here’s the good news: remote work supports accessibility, both in forms of physical and digital inclusion.
Recently, AngelList published How Remote Work Impacts Employees With Disabilities, focusing on how eliminating a commute or providing more flexibility in schedules benefits those who have a more difficult time getting from point A to B.
Accenture published the Inclusive Future of Work: A Call to Action study, highlighting a framework they’ve created called New Skilling. It teaches transitional steps companies can take to make sure their employees are ready to join an “inclusive future of work - a future in which all workers have the motivation, means, and opportunity to thrive in the digital economy.”
Companies such as Orange have entire guides on the subject of digital inclusion, and organizations such as the National Digital Inclusion Alliance hold an annual conference bringing together key players in the field.
There really is a lot going on. Here are some projects, companies, and initiatives to keep an eye out for:
Alternative educational solutions
HelloGuru.IO is a no-code academy started by Felipe Abello. As former Head of Business Operations at Latin America’s unicorn Rappi, he struggled with a lack of software developers due to backlog on the software/development team.
“We had this problem, a lack of software developers. We weren’t going to catch up if we made everyone learn to code.”
It got to the point where Felipe took matters into his own hands and tried coding himself. But not having a technical background, he found it faster to solve his problems using alternative tools and resources to make what he needed, eventually finding out the existence of the no-code movement.
“I was in bed, it was 5AM and I was reading a Medium post about the ‘no-code movement.’ They were talking about all the tools and resources I was already using. I connected the dots and went, “OH MY GOD!””
He hired non-technical people and in one to two months, taught them how to use no coding tools and quickly began seeing results. Soon after leaving Rappi, he founded HelloGuru.
Joining the no-code movement, HelloGuru is the first no-code academy with a focus on the Spanish-speaking market that teaches and brings awareness to alternative no-code tools and resources. They are a remote-first company, with distributed team members in Europe, as well as North and South America. Currently in beta mode, Felipe has noted that their early users are “building things in a short amount of time” and that this is “ inspirational; the sense of accomplishment that people get when they see what they can accomplish with these tools.”
Open source and what they enable with their future plans
The largest remote-first company with over 1000 employees worldwide, is open-source platform GitLab. They’ve been around for almost a decade and their commitment to digital inclusion comes with their understanding of retaining top global talent. GitLab draws housing shortages and rising costs of living in big cities into their work equation. Shawn Winters, Strategic Acceleration Manager at GitLab, spoke to Remoter about minimal viable product (MVP) — an important concept they follow that has allowed them to leverage remote work successfully. They develop more products/processes both quickly and efficiently.
“Minimal viable product/process allows for quick iteration and immediate first drafts to be delivered into production. Instead of having paralysis by analysis and waiting for our handbook, training, on-boarding, or product education material to be perfect, the thought here is that getting workable ideas and products into the hands of more people can speed up the development of the innovation on those products and ideas as well.”
One of those products is their Compensation Calculator. Given that compensation models are still a grey area in the remote work environment, allowing public access to this service helps increase awareness of fair salaries based on geo-locations. In this case, GitLab pays local rates for employees “based on a number of different contributing factors, like cost of living, market rates, etc.”
Enabling rural communities to thrive
There are programs popping up all over the world that are enabling remote work in rural communities. Grow Remote’s Town Tasters initiative transports remote workers to rural communities so the two groups can meet one another. The remote workers can see what’s available and add another location to their list, while the locals can learn more about remote work and its benefits.
There’s also the Rural Online Initiative, a pilot program focused on “educating, coaching and mentoring members of the rural workforce who are currently unemployed, underemployed, or have dropped from the workforce to obtain freelance jobs, remote employment, or online commerce opportunities.”
Remoter spoke with Caryl Hale, a rural remote worker in Kansas. Remote work has opened up many opportunities for people who don’t live in big cities, such as herself, she says. An organization hired her to help them network in areas within the state where they had less presence. For them, having remote workers for state-wide or multi-state companies is a huge benefit, as they gain better presence without having to physically manage multiple office locations.
“For me it was a perfect opportunity to work for an organization and cause I have been passionate about while also expanding my network across the state in regions that I had previously not been as connected with,” enthuses Caryl. “Full-time positions that include my skills are harder to find in my community, and working remotely helped me avoid having to commute or find freelancing jobs.”
Other rural remote work benefits include the ability to make an impact through volunteer work or community organization, Caryl points out.
“Raising our kids with several grandparents and extended family members was also a priority for us in moving to our community. Other remote workers in rural communities nearby have also contributed to their communities by starting other businesses. We have a brewery being built in the town east of us, by a remote worker from Google. The flexibility of remote work has helped many rural remote workers contribute in other meaningful ways to their communities.”
What does the future hold?
As society continues to pave its way through a rapidly changing world, forward thinkers are more important than ever. We need people to come up with creative, alternative solutions that emphasize training and education. We need people to steer in the other direction and consider those who don’t fall into the target audience of ‘young, big city dweller.’
There’s simply no doubt that remote work can help bridge the digital skills gap and foster a strong, digitally inclusive environment.