UTS team addresses racial bias in tech industry at the Global Ideas Institute

UTS team addresses racial bias in tech industry at the Global Ideas Institute
Out and About general

This year, the Global Ideas Institute challenged students to consider critical digital safety issues, in pursuit of making those spaces more inclusive, more equitably enjoyable, and safer for all. Teams were tasked with developing innovative approaches to “bolstering digital safety among marginalized communities.”

“The challenge demanded a level of sophisticated research and problem-solving beyond anything teams have been asked to tackle previously,” says UTS Canadian and World Studies teacher Richard Cook, who coordinated the UTS team along with History and Geography teacher Charlotte Speilman. The Global Ideas Institute, an initiative of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, provides students with the tools, knowledge, and guidance to develop innovative solutions to complex global issues.

There’s nothing UTS students like better than solving problems. S5 (Grade 11) team members, Ann Derham, Caleb Na, Vivek Sapru, Shuyu Vankerkwijk and George Wang, delivered their solutions pitch to an esteemed panel of tech industry reps, social enterprise entrepreneurs, and Munk School academics.

The UTS team impressed the panel with their astute analysis of how racial bias in tech – the algorithms at the heart of many online experiences – is causing harm within society and then proposed their solution to create mechanisms that make it easier for minority and marginalized community members to entre tech fields.  

The students' plan focuses on teaching a combination of coding skills and ethical design, and facilitating valuable networking experiences while improving racial diversity over the long-term in computer science and algorithm creation. As a result, they foresee multiple benefits to marginalized youth and to the tech companies that continue to exert huge influence on global culture and economics.

The expert panel directed astute critiques and probing questions to the team, who articulated insightful responses. 

Mr. Cook described the year as exceptionally demanding for participants while also being one of the most rewarding in the Institute’s decade-long history. “The shift to an entirely virtual format left participants missing the energy and excitement of gathering in a post-secondary format with like-minded students, but also brought more focus and direct access to speakers and their ideas.” 

This year's GII team demonstrated once again the remarkable commitment UTS students have to the school's mission of social responsibility and global citizenship. The team invested months of effort and thinking on a pivotal issue, all the while honing their collaboration and communication skills. The team's success at the final symposium was powerful testimony of how much young people have to offer when it comes to insight, innovation, and energy in addressing the most pressing problems of our time.

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UTS team addresses racial bias in tech industry at the Global Ideas Institute