Closing the Digital Divide
February 28, 2018
What does the world stand to lose without equal access to technology and the internet? Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar and Leonardo Ortiz discuss the Microsoft Airband Initiative and why the future of jobs and education make closing the digital divide more important than ever. Then, Windows Insider MVP Andre DaCosta from Jamaica, shares his thoughts on the power of connectivity, plus a few tips for optimizing Windows while having limited access to the internet.
Windows Insider Podcast Ep 12
Closing the Digital Divide
JASON HOWARD: Welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast. You're listening to Episode 12. I'm your host, Jason Howard. Today, we're exploring the digital divide and access to the Internet, what does the world stand to lose if some people have access to technology and the Internet and other people don't; what can be done about the digital divide; and why should all tech companies care. Those questions and more coming up in this episode.
First up, Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider Program, chats with Leonardo Ortiz of Microsoft Philanthropies about how the digital divide profoundly affects communities, education, and employment.
Here are Leonardo and Dona.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: My name is Leonardo Ortiz. I've been in Microsoft for 18 years now, and I currently work for the Microsoft Philanthropies group where I oversee our global execution.
DONA SARKAR: Which is, you know, kind of amazing
LEONARDO ORTIZ: It's definitely fun, you know, and it has to do with figuring out how we land our programs all over the world.
DONA SARKAR: That's right. So as a society we're in the middle of an exciting technological transformation, but there's billions of people around the world, and millions right here in the U.S. who don't have access to tech and the Internet. Why is this issue of digital divide so critical, and why is Microsoft Philanthropies so committed to solving it.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: As you say, you know, the world is changing at a very rapid pace. Everything is becoming more digital, which means the way in which we work, the way in which we learn, the interaction with government, with commerce.
And as the world becomes more digital, when you have more than half of the population in the world with no access to technology or connectivity, which on itself shouldn't matter that much but for the fact that that connectivity allows you to access opportunities, content, knowledge, services, then these people are lagging behind even in a more rapid pace. They are underserved already, and the gap gets just widening in a more dramatic way.
And they're not being able to advance and access technology by market means, which means that companies like Microsoft, we really need to step up and do some extra work in addition to what we normally do in our business model to ensure that technology advances but that we left no one behind, to the extent possible.
DONA SARKAR: You said over 50 percent of the world has no connectivity.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Exactly.
DONA SARKAR: That's enormous.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Not even a feature phone, nothing.
DONA SARKAR: Nothing.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Nothing.
DONA SARKAR: So more than 50 percent of the world is never connected.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Exactly.
DONA SARKAR: That's pretty extraordinary. And I know you guys have been doing a lot of work over the past few years to ensure that people in communities have access to the opportunities that tech provides. Can you tell us a little bit about what you've been doing.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Yes. So our main goal is to bridge that digital divide, to ensure that people have access to technology, but most important to ensure that people is ready for the future. In a world in which we're going to see more artificial intelligence, more robotics, the way of working is going to evolve rapidly.
We need to make sure, and I'm going to start with young people, that all the future generations that will come to the workforce are future ready, that they're learning not only how to use technology but how to create technology, which is now going to become not just something that is useful for the software industry, but for everyone, regardless of the discipline that people pursue. So that's going to more generalized in the future, and we need to make sure that that happens.
Right now, we're seeing displacement starting to happen, job displacement, people whose jobs are going away because of automation, and especially in areas like the manufacturing industry or retail industry.
And we need to work with society, with academia, with nonprofit sector to ensure that we're identifying those people, that we're reskilling those individuals, and that we're matching them to the existing jobs that are out there, because people may just think jobs are going away, but you know what, every time that technology evolves and that industry evolves, jobs go away but other new jobs come up.
DONA SARKAR: That's right.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: But we just need to make sure that people are trained rapidly enough to be able to plug into the existing jobs.
So we're working on those two fronts, and a third area of work is ensuring that the nonprofit sector, which is one that doesn't have a lot of budget and that solely focuses on addressing some of the most difficult societal issues in the world, that they are also adopting technology so that they themselves become more effective, more productive, and do more good around the globe.
DONA SARKAR: The best way to empower them is by being able to scale with tech.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Exactly.
DONA SARKAR: I love that.
What you just said about jobs go away but new jobs emerge, and we have to really take the responsibility to train the next generation to be able to do those jobs, it reminds me a lot of that article that Brad Smith recently wrote about the retirement of the horse -
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Oh yes.
DONA SARKAR: -- with the introduction of the car, and all of the new jobs that came along with the introduction of the car, different jobs, completely different.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: That's a great example. A great stat from that story is that in the year 1900, New York City used to have 100,000 horses.
DONA SARKAR: Wow.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: That was what made possible everything in New York, right, people moving from one place to another, products being moved. And then 20 years later, those horses were gone. Imagine the amount of people that were driving the coaches or the veterinarians or people feeding the horses or cleaning after the horses. Those jobs went away, but now you needed chauffeurs for cars and drivers, mechanics, and a breadth of other roles that existed. Now, can the person that was cleaning the barn after the horse, was that individual skilled to now go and repair a car? No.
DONA SARKAR: No.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: But something needed to happen.
And that happens in any industrial revolution, and that happened all over the world. The countries that have the ability or the societies that have the ability to learn faster and adapt faster are the ones who emerge to the top.
DONA SARKAR: So true, and history has dictated that this will happen over and over again.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: It's happening, yeah.
DONA SARKAR: It's happening. So speaking of happening, can you share a success story that represents what people or communities can achieve once they have access to technology?
LEONARDO ORTIZ: We see a lot of different stories, all inspiring. Especially, when I talk to people, to journalists and other people around the globe, and we talk about all these 52 percent of population in the world that has no access to technology, some of those communities don't even have running water or electricity. They barely have food. They have no education.
So people ask us, why would they care about having technology when they're not even covering these needs, right, their essential needs.
And the answer is that technology helps leapfrog certain stages of development. And technology helps accelerate the ability for communities to access things, content, different services, that will allow people to improve their quality of life.
A great example of this is these three kids from Uganda, Aaron, Joshua, and Josiah. A couple of years ago, they participated in a competition that we have in Microsoft called Imagine Cup, you probably have heard of it, which is inspiring kids in high schools and colleges to learn how to develop software. And then by doing that, they enter this competition in which they create solutions for problems that they see in their communities, whether it is related to health or education or the environment or something else.
These kids are from Uganda, and they realized that the rate of mortality of mothers and newborns was very high in rural areas, these places that had no running water, on electricity, nor clinics. And the mortality rate was high because there wasn't enough health, not even physicians but nurses or other people, practitioners or facilities to even monitor the pregnancy. And where you had community clinics of some sort, they didn't have the equipment, like no way to do an ultrasound, right?
So with a mobile device, a mobile phone, and coding, they invented a very low-cost device, and software, to actually replace the sonogram or the ultrasound machine at a super-low cost. Basically, it's the cost of the device, just the phone.
And they started deploying it in rural Uganda. And they tried it, they created this thing no one had ever created something like it, definitely not the industry, because it's a very cheap solution. And in the communities in which they piloted, the mortality rate started going down very quickly.
They have now been in contact with local governments from a couple of African countries, or national governments from African countries that are now interested in expanding the use of this solution to be able to provide a better quality of health to expecting mothers in rural Africa. That's a story I love.
DONA SARKAR: I love that story.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: And like that we see a lot of other examples of great things being done.
DONA SARKAR: I love that. That's such impact, because it affects not just the mothers but their entire family, it affects huge communities.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Oh, it's a multiplying effect.
DONA SARKAR: Yeah.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Yeah, that's why organizations say that if you work with women, the multiplying effect in society is huge, because in many cases, especially in developing countries, women are heads of family. So you impact the whole family immediately.
DONA SARKAR: I think that's fascinating. What you said about leapfrogging is really powerful, because we have a Windows Insider named Caleb teaching Code.org tutorials. He used the Minecraft ones that your team produced to teach basic tech education to these kids outside Nairobi, in Kenya. And these are kids who have never seen a computer, who have never been in a connected area. So he goes to town with a car, some PCs, Code.org tutorials, sets up this hub, and actually gets them hands-on time with these tutorials.
And what's fascinating is that the kids take to it immediately, they learn it right away.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: They do.
DONA SARKAR: And parents will often come and say, "What are you wasting your time with, this has no place in our life, we need you to be helping on the farm," you know, this kind of thing.
So Caleb told us a story that his best student is a ten-year old named Bernice. And one day, Bernice's mom comes to school and says, "Why is she wasting her time with this? This has no room on our farm. We need her to work on the farm." And Caleb said, "She is learning things that will enable her to bypass farming forever." And to Eunice that's like a shocking stat, right, she doesn't know that that means.
So what Caleb did was he pulled in the parents and the teachers into learning to code so they also have the opportunity to leapfrog their lives, and they're able to actually help their kids with technology, because when kids have questions, you go to the adult in your life. And Caleb knows he's not going to be around in their village forever, so he's systematically changing people's lives, not just kids, but the adults who love them, who care about them.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: This is a great example, and it speaks to what we're really getting when learning how to code, which is it's not the coding, it's you're learning critical thinking, problem-solving.
DONA SARKAR: That's right.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: And in the long term we in Microsoft and many other players in the industry and in academia are convinced that computer science education is fundamental and should be compulsory in the same way in which we all learn biology and chemistry and physics. Not because we will become part of the health industry or go and work for a chemical company, but because, for example, for you to know how your body works you needed to learn fundamentals of biology. In an increasingly digital world, if we want to understand how things work in society, we need to learn computer science.
DONA SARKAR: Oh, absolutely. I think everyone has to learn computer science.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Even if you're not going to become an engineer. So that's --
DONA SARKAR: Essentially if. And I tell everyone it's like reading and writing. Just because you can read and write doesn't make you an author. You don't need to become an author necessarily.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Exactly.
DONA SARKAR: But it's fundamental to learn.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Exactly.
DONA SARKAR: So in order for people to actually learn computer science, we need connectivity. And like you're saying, over 50 percent of the world's population isn't online. And in the U.S. 23 million people in the rural parts of the U.S. don't have access to high-speed Internet or broadband.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: You know what's crazy about that? Even in some of these communities we have data centers, and other companies have data centers. Can you imagine you go outside of a data center there's no connectivity for the community, the neighboring families?
DONA SARKAR: That's crazy.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: So that's a big problem. It's a global problem, of course. We have been as Microsoft engaged in trying to address this problem for a few years now. We have around 18 different projects around the globe. We're currently heavily investing in India, which is a vast country, also with a huge gap in connectivity.
But you would imagine that people would say developed countries don't have this problem.
DONA SARKAR: Oh my.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: But you then go and look at the stats, and, you know, 24 million people in the United States --
DONA SARKAR: That's not a small number.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: -- that live in rural areas don't have access. Actually, the number is greater when you add the people in urban areas. It actually goes up 32 million people in the United States, 23 of which are in rural areas, which is where the problem is more pronounced.
And that's an issue. Why? Think about the education model in the United States, for example, right now, requires students of all grades to access resources and do homework online.
DONA SARKAR: That's right.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: That's generalized. It's like all districts have components that are online. More and more and more as a parent you need to engage online. The kids come home, and they need to do homework online, and they check for answers of their math homework online to see, okay, did I solve this problem right, and then online you have the whole construction of how you did it.
If you don't have access, if you're an 11-year-old or a 12-year-old in middle school, you had no way of knowing if you did your math homework right or wrong. Or sometimes to even go and do what is required online. And if you don't do that, that means that you start falling behind.
DONA SARKAR: Immediately.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: And that's exponential.
And for purpose of the example let's just put it in time. If you fall a month behind from everyone else, the next year you're two months or three months behind. It's exponential. The more you fall behind because everyone is advancing rapidly, the gap starts widening very quickly. That's one example of why connectivity is very important.
DONA SARKAR: That is a frightening realization. I had not thought about that in that way. I'd thought about it in terms of this will just keep these people from knowing about opportunities that exist in the world. But if it starts all the way in elementary school, they don't even get there.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: It impacts education. People think, okay, if you don't have connectivity, then too bad, you need to go to the store instead of shopping online, or you won't access Facebook. No, it's not about that.
DONA SARKAR: No, it's just about basic education. It's online.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: It's about basic education. And when you think about that, then that impacts everything else in society.
DONA SARKAR: Yeah. My gosh, I hadn't realized, because, you know, when you and I went to school, looking stuff up online was not a mandatory part of our life. But now it is.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Now it is. And you could say, well, those kids then need to go to the library, but that could be a partial solution, but it is not enough because now everything is online.
DONA SARKAR: And they are going to have to assume certain things: library is there, it's open, library has connectivity, they have enough computers for everybody.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: There are stories that we've heard of kids that live in zip codes in which there's no connectivity and are required to do certain homework online, and kids driving somewhere to the neighboring town and standing outside of a café or a store or somewhere that has Wi-Fi in a parking lot trying to do the homework.
DONA SARKAR: Wow.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: So when you think about that, it's like this, we really need to solve this.
DONA SARKAR: We have to solve this.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Exactly.
DONA SARKAR: This is a global problem, but definitely a local one, as well.
So what have you found are the main challenges that stand in the way of closing this connectivity gap?
LEONARDO ORTIZ: There are different components to it. There is a regulatory component to it, and there is a technology component to it.
The technology piece, it's kind of solved in the sense that there's existing technology that can help address this at a lower cost than the normal broadband by fiber optic.
The problem is infrastructure. So these places don't have connectivity because there's no fiber optic network to go and do that, because there's not enough market, why all the investment.
In the United States we clearly have an initiative called Microsoft Airband Initiative is that trying to address this. Microsoft has been investing in developing, along with some partners, technology that allows us to use the unused TV radio spectrum.
DONA SARKAR: That's right.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: They call it TV whitespaces.
DONA SARKAR: Yes.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: So it's when you think about the UHF channels, for example, I'm old enough to remember changing the TV not with a remote control but just using those channels. Radio and TV, by the way, use that radio spectrum. In places like LA or New York the radio spectrum is full because there's a lot of --
DONA SARKAR: A lot.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: -- TV stations and a lot of radio stations. But as you start going to more remote places, you hardly have usage of the radio spectrum.
All that unused space is space through which you can transmit data, as well if you have the right technology.
So MSR in Microsoft, along with other engineers, have created technology that allows you to access that, to put some antennas and be able to transmit some Wi-Fi signals in the radio spectrum.
Now, the way to scale this is not just to go and put a standalone antenna here or there, but to partner with commercial partners that are interested in having a low-cost solution for selling connectivity services to the population.
DONA SARKAR: Ah, I see.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: But you asked me about the main challenge, and I'll get to the partnerships and how we do this, but the main challenge right now is more political. It's about getting the regulatory approval, because it has to do with permits to be able to deploy those solutions in different locations.
DONA SARKAR: So the technical problem is not the biggest challenge that we face.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: No, the biggest challenge is getting the approvals. That's why when we launched our initiative a few months ago, Brad Smith, who's our president, presented this plan in Washington, DC in front of a lot of representatives and people from the DC community, calling for clearing these regulatory hurdles so that we in an easier way deploy this technology across the country.
That's one part of how you solve this, and then once that is cleared --
DONA SARKAR: That's right.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: -- then you work on the business side of the house, which is, you know, we need to partner. We don't want to become a broadband company.
DONA SARKAR: No, not at all.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: That's not -- that's not our goal.
DONA SARKAR: We have no intention.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: We're interested in the technology to solve the problem. That's why we're partnering with local providers in order to figure out how to create a model that is cost effective for the population, and that doesn't require the millions of dollars of investment in fiber optic.
DONA SARKAR: So it benefits the Internet Service Provider at a lower cost without them having to invest upfront so much that they say no.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Exactly, because if the density of the population is low, then the ROI for investing in fiber optic in certain places, it's not there.
DONA SARKAR: It's not there.
So funny TV whitespaces story for you, outside Nairobi there's a region called Nanyuki. Satya had gone there for Win 10 launched.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: That's where he launched Windows 10, exactly.
DONA SARKAR: Yes. And he actually met a Windows Insider named Chris Baraka, and Chris actually works for a company that does TV whitespaces in Nanyuki. He's one of our Windows Insiders we work with quite regularly.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Oh, that's amazing. And that's one of the first projects that we ever did in the world, and a lot of learning has come from that, and we are trying to replicate that in many places. And that's what we're trying to do in the United States.
DONA SARKAR: I think that's amazing.
So what does Philanthropies all up hope to accomplish in the next year, and eventually long term? What would you consider to be success?
LEONARDO ORTIZ: There's a couple of things that I will call out. We're trying to train students or even young kids that may not be in school and teachers, teachers to be able to teach computer science education, and students to learn it.
We've already in the past few years trained more than 300 million kids.
DONA SARKAR: Three hundred million?
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Yes.
DONA SARKAR: Wow.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Three hundred million. And this is a count that we started like five and a half years ago.
DONA SARKAR: Yeah, but 300 million, that's very impressive, that's amazing.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Yeah, yeah. Teachers we're in the thousands still. It's a harder challenge. And we started more recently to focus more and more and more on teachers. We just want to keep working on those numbers, but most importantly ensuring that different countries adopt computer science education as compulsory in their education system, because we will never scale unless the formal education system integrates computer science education in their curriculum.
DONA SARKAR: Absolutely. There's many countries who made it mandatory, like I think England was one of them.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Well, and England is in the right path, Korea, Russia, and a few others, but the majority of the countries aren't.
DONA SARKAR: Absolutely they are not.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Including the United States. In the U.S. there are still 18 states that have not adopted computer science education as a subject that can earn you credits for high school graduation.
DONA SARKAR: That's insane.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Forget about K-12, right now --
DONA SARKAR: Eighteen?
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Yeah, 18 that still need to pass legislation. And we have a team working on that, and we're moving fast to do it, but there's a lot of work there.
That's one part of what we want to accomplish. On the other end, and I mentioned that earlier, that working with nonprofits for us, enabling them with technology is a multiplying factor to help address some of the most pressing challenges around the globe. So accelerating technology adoption, especially cloud technology, for nonprofits is also something that we want to do.
Right now, we donate technology, over a billion dollars' worth of technology to more than 100,000 nonprofits around the globe. We actually want to in the next couple of years multiply that to reach 300,000 nonprofits.
Two years ago, in the World Economic Forum in Davos our CEO, Satya Nadella, said that we were committing to donate a billion dollars' worth of cloud services to the nonprofit sector over the next three years. And we have very rapidly seen progress there.
But it's not about the investment, it's about how many nonprofits actually get on technology, ours hopefully, but any technology, to be able to do their work in a better way. And that's what we want to do, that's our goal.
DONA SARKAR: I love that.
Thank you so much for being here. This has been such a pleasure, obviously something we're deeply passionate about. And, you know, we have millions of Windows Insiders, every country in the world. So whatever we can do to help, just let us know, because, one, we have access to technology. Two, we have a great passion for using that technology knowledge to make a lasting impact in the world. So if you ever need a million friends to do something, we're your people.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: We always need that, so thanks for the offer --
DONA SARKAR: Of course.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: -- and I hope that we work together on different projects with your community around the world.
DONA SARKAR: Of course. Thank you.
LEONARDO ORTIZ: Thanks.
JASON HOWARD: Windows Insiders around the world cope with the connectivity gap, including our MVPs. Next up, we'll be chatting with Andre DaCosta, the first and only Windows Insider MVP in Jamaica.
Andre is dialing into our story from Jamaica. You might notice a few glitches in the audio, and that's due to the very problem we're talking about today, limited Internet connectivity.
Hi, Andre. Welcome to the show. What are you working on these days?
ANDRE DACOSTA: Hi. It is great to be here. This is Andre DaCosta from Jamaica. I currently write for groovypost.com where I write a combination of how-to articles, tips and tricks, and how to get the most out of Windows 10 and Office 365.
As you mentioned, I am the one and only Windows Insider MVP in Jamaica right now, and I hope to change that. I actually participate every day on the Microsoft communities where I offer my help and expertise in using Windows 10, and it was recognized many years ago when I was helping out with Windows 7, and I was nominated to become an MVP.
JASON HOWARD: Awesome. So our listeners can find you on Microsoft community and at groovypost.com.
Well, tell us a bit about where you live in Jamaica. What do you see when you look out your window?
ANDRE DACOSTA: Well, I currently live in the central part of Jamaica, which is the Parish of Manchester. That's about 60 miles away from the capitol, Kingston. It's mostly a rural area. There are a lot of farms around. So I wake up to seeing like goats and chickens and cows and stuff like that around me. And lots of nature. It's a really nice place to live if you really want quietness.
JASON HOWARD: I was going to say, it sounds like a beautiful place to be.
ANDRE DACOSTA: Yeah, it is. I am not too far from the beach actually.
JASON HOWARD: A little sun and sand anytime you want it.
What about the Internet connectivity in your community?
ANDRE DACOSTA: It's not great. Currently, I use a metered connection. I had to travel to my brother's home today to set up this event. Every two days, I pay like about $2 U.S. to get about 300 megabytes of data, which I use to do my work. And that's really that's how I've been working for a long time now. It's a struggle, but I do work with it, and make the best of it.
JASON HOWARD: So it sounds like in an area that has either low Internet connectivity or in your case highly metered connections, it sounds like you need to use some specific strategies in adapting to that type of environment. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
ANDRE DACOSTA: Definitely. You really have to be planning ahead. Time management is an asset. You really have to know how to use your time wisely. But I try not to make it frustrate me or anything. I'm still doing what I love. I enjoy doing this.
JASON HOWARD: Within the Windows OS itself is there anything particularly helpful about Windows, any settings or things that you can change that help make this process any better?
ANDRE DACOSTA: Well, for me personally one of the big issues I had initially with Windows 10 was it's a service. It really delivers a lot of its functionality through the Internet. So using a lot of features in Windows 10 required that I had a good Internet connection. But at the same time, Windows 10 allowed me to manage how I access the Internet. So features like the Metered Connection settings in Windows 10 allowed me to really manage which programs and services were able to access the Internet.
And it's interesting, because a lot of persons, especially in North America, had similar issues. And I was able to write an article, and it turns out to be one of the most popular articles I have on groovypost.com, how to manage your Internet usage in Windows 10. So I'm able to help persons still use Windows 10 and use all the offline features that it has to offer.
And there are many programs that you can still use offline, and it doesn't necessarily have to be like this operating system is going to use up all my data, what am I going to do. You can use features in Windows 10 to manage your bandwidth, and at the same time take advantage of all the new features it has to offer.
JASON HOWARD: So you did mention in settings being able to go through and set metered connection settings, and that it helps control how much bandwidth is being used.
ANDRE DACOSTA: Yeah.
JASON HOWARD: Are there any application level settings or other things anywhere inside the OS that you've found through this trial and error process that you were able to provide tips and tricks on to other users?
ANDRE DACOSTA: Again, going back to the metered connection settings, but also in Windows Update there are ways to control how Windows Update downloads updates. So I can also adjust whether I want to share my bandwidth with other computers I have on my personal network at home, and I can also turn on certain background applications from accessing the Internet in the privacy settings.
So those are features that are available for users to explore and try and see what works for them. You don't have to wholesale turn off everything.
JASON HOWARD: So having said that, how would having a better Internet connection make a difference for you?
ANDRE DACOSTA: I try not to look at it just from my perspective alone. I think personally for the wider community where I live I think having better Internet connection would lead to a better community.
One aspect I think that would really help is in education where a lot of young people leaving high school, you know, college is not affordable, it's very expensive, and I think for a lot of young people leaving high school the first thing they think about is getting a job to support that dream of eventually going to college. I think that's one of the areas where the Internet can definitely help when it comes to higher learning. It equalizes the playing field for many.
I think one of the great opportunities of having a faster, more consistent and reliable Internet access would be to provide students leaving high school the opportunity to continue their education.
For a lot of students leaving high school, especially in my community, it's difficult to think about going to college right away, and many have to think about getting their first jobs. And what that does, it tends to limit the opportunity to go to school, because once you start going into the work world, it minimizes that feeling of going on to higher education.
So I think for a lot of young persons, having access to fast Internet would give them the opportunity to continue learning using social media, using sites like YouTube to continue learn, and continue to pursue their dreams.
JASON HOWARD: Do you see any economic benefits or opportunities that better Internet could bring to your community?
ANDRE DACOSTA: The shared economy is an opportunity. Platforms like Airbnb, they're coming online here in Jamaica.
Another opportunity also is even for farmers. You know, they will be able to sell their products and advertise it to new markets.
The Internet is really the basis for the economy going in the future. And you can't have people just thinking about leaving their rural towns and causing this exodus to go to another town where there might be better Internet. You need to build up your local communities.
And I've made a conscious effort to stay where I live and contribute to my local economy. And it's through the work I do as a Windows Insider I'm able to do that.
JASON HOWARD: You've done an amazing job of describing both the challenges of limited connectivity and the potential for positive change if the gap were to be bridged. Do you see any other ways that better access to the Internet could make a positive impact?
ANDRE DACOSTA: You know, Jamaica has recently been going through a lot of issues in terms of the crime and violence. And I think it goes back again to the youth not having opportunities for them to really do things to make a change in their society.
And I think if the Internet was available in a way where they could use it as a platform to build solutions that the society really needs, even if it's someone maybe starting their own Internet café in the community.
JASON HOWARD: Yeah, it would definitely change the landscape that you're currently operating in.
ANDRE DACOSTA: Yeah.
JASON HOWARD: Are there any parting words of wisdoms you'd like to share with the rest of the Windows Insider community?
ANDRE DACOSTA: Sure. The Windows Insider program is great. You know, if someone told me three years ago that Microsoft would release a new version of Windows two times per year, and giving the opportunity to try new releases of it every week, you know, I would say you're crazy, but it's actually happening.
And the opportunities to really contribute to the product and to see the features actually be realized is one of the great things about the Windows Insider program. I'm actually seeing features suggested become actual technology, the end products I use every day.
So I just encourage Windows Insiders all over the world definitely open up that Feedback Hub, and make sure you send in the feedback if you really want to see change, because it really does happen.
So I applaud the engineers, people like Dona and Jason and Jen and Brandon, who engage with users on Twitter every day, applaud to you. You know, you're doing great work, and it's just for us, the users, to continue sending in that feedback to help make a great product even better.
JASON HOWARD: Thanks, man. You're making me blush over here. (Laughter.)
Well, I have to tell you it has been fantastic chatting with you. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. And best of luck to you in your work.
ANDRE DACOSTA: Same to you, Jason. Take care.
JASON HOWARD: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Windows Insider Podcast.
Join us again next month when we chat about lifelong learning, side hustles, and free learning resources for Windows Insiders.
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VOICEOVER: The Windows Insider Podcast is produced by Microsoft Production Studios and the Windows Insider team, which includes Tyler Ahn --- that's me -- Michelle Paison, Ande Harwood, and Kristie Wang.
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