Leveraging Technology to Build Generational Wealth

The digital revolution opened doors for considerable wealth building and economic opportunities. Internet access is as vital as having water or electricity – it’s a basic necessity to function in our society. Being able to access the internet, free from discrimination or bias, is key to a future where communities of color thrive.

However, access is not equal. The digital divide and pervasiveness of digital redlining perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunity. Most people have access to the internet either through a phone or home-broadband connection, but there are significant racial and income gaps. We’re also seeing the rise of a booming tech industry that uses our data to make decisions, many of which can disadvantage communities of color and entrench inequality.

Bridging the digital divide and addressing algorithmic bias, particularly in employment, education, housing, and credit, is critical to closing the racial wealth gap and creating digital opportunities for wealth building in communities of color.


Bridging the Digital Divide

The digital divide is defined as the inequalities in access to and the use of information and communication technologies, including the internet. Closing the digital divide will increase household wealth and eliminate one of the root causes of inequities faced by communities of color. 

Internet access is a critical tool for building wealth and economic opportunities for communities of color by enabling:

  • Better educational opportunities and academic outcomes
  • Wage growth, remote work, and resistance to automation
  • Access to an increasingly online banking and financial system
  • Infrastructure to support small business growth and entrepreneurship
  • Economic benefits for communities

Additionally, without quality telephone and broadband service, our communities cannot apply for jobs, access healthcare or government services, or stay in touch with loved ones. Modern communications technologies like wireless phone service and broadband should be high quality, available to all, and affordable regardless of income. While broadband has created enormous opportunities for our communities, The Greenlining Institute is working to ensure that this technology is not used to perpetuate discrimination.

Algorithmic Greenlining

Algorithmic bias occurs when an algorithmic decision leads to unfair outcomes that unjustifiably and arbitrarily privilege certain groups over others. One major source of algorithmic bias is in training data used to teach such a system to recognize patterns in large datasets.  

The rise of the tech industry that uses our data to make decisions can lead to decisions that disadvantage communities of color and entrench inequality. Invisible to most consumers, algorithms today act as gatekeepers to economic opportunity. Companies and public institutions use algorithms to decide who gets access to affordable credit, jobs, education, government resources, and healthcare. When algorithmic bias and financial technology systems go largely unchecked it leaves communities of color subject to discrimination – the new frontiers of redlining.

The racist legacy of redlining lingers today in the economic indicators that not only impact our everyday lives, but guide crucial investments in entire communities. Federal laws like the Community Reinvestment Act – the nation’s anti-redlining law – and state laws must be modernized in order to protect communities of color from ongoing discrimination from algorithmic bias and unregulated financial technology. 

Greenlining works to address unfair economic indicators that deem a person worthy of credit so formerly redlined communities can catch up.


Leveling  the Digital Playing Field

Through research, writing, and legislative advocacy, Greenlining builds support for policies to end algorithmic bias and promote algorithmic greenlining:

Closing the Digital Divide

  • Building more high-quality internet infrastructure in communities of color to drive more competition, faster speeds, and cheaper services
  • Advocating for state and federal policies and regulations that ensure low-income families can afford to access wireless and home internet services through programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program and LifeLine
  • Developing and implementing a digital inclusion program, Town Link, that brings digital literacy classes, laptops, and affordable connectivity to low-income families in Oakland

Algorithmic Greenlining

  • Developing policies to ensure automated systems making key decisions are fair, transparent and explainable
  • Advocating for stronger accountability for artificial intelligence systems by regulators and policymakers
  • Researching how to update and modernize our civil rights laws to account for new forms of algorithmic bias

Greenlining released two groundbreaking reports on the topic: