New developments in the digital divide

From The Verge:

When David Velasquez went home to California for a week in April, he found out that his parents didn’t have internet access anymore. Velasquez, a medical student at Harvard, needs Wi-Fi for work. However, his parents don’t own a computer. “They don’t shop online, they don’t watch Netflix,” he says. So when the connection got too expensive, they stopped paying for it.

With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the country, that decision worried Velasquez. His parents also speak very little English, and doctors and clinics in the US were canceling in-person appointments and asking patients to schedule virtual visits for any health problems instead.

Without internet access and with limited English, Velasquez’s parents wouldn’t be able to make that switch. “I knew that as our healthcare system started transitioning over to telehealth as opposed to in-person, in-clinic care, their access to health care — and other individuals like them — would be disrupted,” he told The Verge.

Telehealth is convenient for some people: it cuts out the drive to an office and the time in a waiting room, trimming an hours-long event down to minutes. But it isn’t easily accessible to the 25 million people in the United States who speak little English, who are more likely to live in poverty, often work service or construction jobs, and may be more at risk of exposure to COVID-19. Even if they are able to get online, most of the systems that support telehealth — like hospital portals and video visit platforms — are hard to access for people who primarily speak other languages.

Why it’s hot

The dream of a techno-utopia often forgets that human biases and systemic problems left unaddressed become embedded in new technology and can exacerbate inequality. So, until we solve those issues, they will be perpetuated.

Source: The Verge

Uber Courts Short-Term Drivers with Pilot Leasing Program

In order to be an Uber driver, you need wheels. And the nicer wheels they are, the more likely you are to be well-rated and continue to getting business. Knowing this, Uber is beginning a pilot program called Xchange Leasing to offer drivers more flexible lease terms and hopefully increase its supply of drivers.

For a deposit of $250 and a higher monthly payment than typical lease, drivers can secure a lease on 2013 Toyota Corolla in a three-year lease. To coax drivers into the higher monthly costs, terms of the deal do not limit drivers to a mileage maximum. Drivers can also break the three-year term for a $250 penalty fee. Drivers will also have the option to buy the vehicle at the end of their lease term.


The pilot is currently running in California, Maryland and Georgia.

Why It’s Hot

Uber’s new pilot is an interesting approach to solving a major barrier to growth: its supply of drivers. It may not be an advantageous lease deal for everyone given the higher costs, but the added flexibility to “get out” could be an attractive way of getting over the trial burden for some would-be drivers and help the service expand into new markets quickly.

Via re/code