The Role of Technology and Innovation in Social Justice

Courtney Savoia
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August 6, 2020

Last week, Verizon, in collaboration with NAF, brought together top leaders from industry — including our partners at KPMG and Deloitte, as well as Infosys — virtually for a Fireside Chat, to discuss the importance of connectivity in our current digital landscape. NAF interns from our Future Ready Labs also joined the panel discussion virtually to hear important insights; lessons; and advice, and also had the opportunity to ask their own questions.Highlights of the conversation included how we can leverage technology to support social justice, as well as addressing the heightened needs resulting from the Digital Divide. Our virtual panel also reflected on how business is working to improve diversity and inclusion and gave advice to our interns about using their voices, talents, and networks to have a seat at the table NOW, as we work together to enact positive change for our society.

Moderator:

  • Bill Taylor, Vice President, Outreach & Partnership Development, NAF

Panelists:

  • Miriam Hernandez, Head of KPMG Global Management Consulting and Verizon Global Lead Partner at KPMG
  • Abby Knowles, Vice President of Network & Field Operations, Verizon
  • Jessica Kosmowski, National Managing Principal, TMT Industry, Deloitte
  • Anand Raghavan Srinivasan, AVP & Global Client Partner, Infosys

Key questions:

How can technology help to open up access and create opportunities for increased equity?

Miriam: “The ability to communicate broadly has become so important. KPMG has embarked on courageous conversations with our employees all around the globe in group settings. We’ve worked together on crowdsourcing to come up with more inclusive strategies at all levels, with perspectives from all different countries. It’s been important to have continuous conversations to combat racism and be more inclusive – we’ve seen how technology can be used for good, in terms of problem-solving.”

Jessica: “It has been a moment of real awakening and real engagement, in moving to act during these current times. Technology has helped bring everyone together to think about how we can work, live, and communicate differently.”

Abby: “My pitch to students is to keep pursuing STEM and learn about the different opportunities in the field. We need your diverse ideas and thought processes, but most importantly we need YOU to have a seat at the table.”

Anand: “We need individuals to make technology a part of their daily lives. It’s about providing equal access to technology and closing the digital divide. Enablement is needed and it’s important to think about how we can make technology an equalizer.”

As leaders in the industry in providing for technology-based products and services, what do you see as your primary corporate role in helping society and the communities that you operate in?

Abby: “As leaders, we need to make sure that we have a balanced team. We must pull back the sheetrock and inspect our structure, when it comes to building our teams. Asking questions such as, ‘How do we hire, promote, etc.?’ and most importantly, ‘Do we have the right voices to advocate?’ are essential to these conversations.”

Jessica: “It’s not about being in a specific place or being everywhere, but the more that we can give people access, is how we can increase the quotient of diversity. As we move into new ways of working in this virtual world, more opportunities will be available.”

Anand: “It’s really about a collective awareness – we need to hold everyone accountable to do the right thing.”

Miriam: “We need diversity of thought, as we have seen that technology has the power to change how we work, live, and express ideas. It is embedded in everything that we do and provides multiple opportunities to do good.”

What advice do you have for our NAF Future Ready Lab interns, that you wish someone gave you at their age?

Jessica: “None of us could have projected where we are today. Each step is a building block and a chance for you to develop your network. It doesn’t have to be perfect – learning will always be a part of life. Be nimble, stay on top of that next opportunity – it’s going to be an amazing future for you!”

Anand: “While the future of technology presents a variety of unknowns, there is also a lot of opportunities that are available and working together to make strides will be crucial in achieving our goals.”

Miriam: “There are many more avenues now to stay connected. Using the tools available to you in your communities – whether it’s through a college resource center or local partnerships – there is so much that students can do now to build their networks.”

Abby: “So many resources are available to you through the Internet and social media – put your energy behind seeking out those opportunities and take advantage of the technology to uncover them.”

Additional Thoughts for Preparing for the Future:

Miriam: “Think about how you can be an ally in the industry you will choose and how you can align with different types of co-workers. There is an element of human leadership that is needed now more than ever and being able to practice empathy and understanding will help us all do good – those human qualities will never go away, in this age of technology. The main goal is this idea of purpose-led leadership.”

Abby: “Keep your mind open and stay aware, including taking every opportunity to vote – the ability to learn and having a sense of curiosity will open up a whole new world. Knowing your ‘why’ will help fuel you and keep you connected to your center during those tough moments.”

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View Bio

Courtney Savoia is the Communications Manager at NAF. She’s passionate about sharing the stories of our network and elevating their voices. Courtney writes about a variety of NAF and partner experiences, as well as lessons learned, and also conducts student, partner, and educator interviews about their journeys, for our audiences to take inspiration from.