Democratizing Technology: What It Means and Why It’s Important
Democratizing Technology: What It Means and Why It’s Important
Democratizing technology means putting technological tools in the hands of the people — giving individuals the opportunity to build new futures by creating their own tech. In essence, “What human beings are and will become is decided in the shape of our tools no less than in the action of statesmen and political movements,” as American technology theorist Andrew Feenberg puts it.
Today, efforts to democratize technology have enabled more people to use the internet for easy access to technical expertise and powerful technology. The result is that workers in every sector — from health to finance, marketing to tech — have more pathways to knowledge and innovation than ever.
Democratization Basics: Understanding the Decentralized Digital World
The democratization of tech, also called “citizen access,” is the process of enabling the masses to access and participate in technological advancement and implementation.
Research firm Gartner defines the democratization of technology as a strategic trend that gives “easy access to technical or business expertise without long and expensive learning.” In this sense, democratization makes the public smarter; more people now have access to tech tutorials, software, apps, and online communities that offer solutions to tech problems. This bypasses the need to study at a university or work for an innovation-driving organization like NASA to get answers.
With fewer gatekeepers between the people and the technology they need to succeed, workers can blaze their own paths forward. It’s no wonder that 87% of utility executives say technology is crucial for innovation, according to Accenture.
But democratizing technology is more than simply letting people use new tech tools. It empowers laypeople, not just experts, to drive digital transformation. Democratizing tech empowers people’s:
Autonomy: self-rulership, an ability to freely determine one’s own actions
Agency: capacity to choose from various options
Creativity: divergent thinking, remixing, and design
Collaboration: teamwork that occurs when people strive together to solve a problem
Innovation: creating something new and more efficient, agile, equitable, or sustainable
Technology in the hands of the many can produce powerful results, as the following examples illustrate.
1. Tech Democratization and Design
One component of the democratization of technology is making online experiences accessible to people with disabilities. More than 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. have a disability (around 61 million people), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And yet, companies resist prioritizing accessibility in online spaces. They often consider accessibility a costly endeavor with low ROI — a misunderstanding that democratization efforts are pushing to correct.
“The belief that accessibility only benefits a small slice of potential users is not only negligent,” UX developer and accessibility advocate David Luhr writes in VentureBeat. “It’s wrong, and ignores major opportunities for users and businesses.”
Disability activists are democratizing technology, making their own accessible designs and industry-standard recommendations available for little to no cost online. Accessibility tools created through the democratization of tech include:
Guides for designing content that is well-structured for people with disabilities to interact with using assistive technology such as braille readers, screen readers and magnifiers, color modes, eye trackers, and voice input machines
Examples of legible typography with sufficient color contrast and responsible use of animations to help designers avoid triggering seizures or balance disorders in users with disabilities
Captioning tools and text generators for various media and images
Tools for creating descriptive text for links and buttons, which makes navigating websites and apps more intuitive for people using assistive technology
2. Democratized App Development
Traditionally, IT workers alone drove application development at companies. That’s because app development historically was not user-friendly. Developers had to read and understand coding languages to produce useful applications.
Today, technological improvements such as no-code app platforms and low-code app platforms are enabling line-of-business employees in fields such as administration, marketing, and business analytics to build their own apps using company and online resources. The democratization of technology, combined with guardrails to avoid accidental security risks, can foster grassroots innovation.
Democratization and the empowerment of citizen developers can make companies more agile and resourceful. Democratization in app development is likely to continue long into the future. “By 2023, the number of active citizen developers at large enterprises will be at least four times the number of professional developers,” Gartner predicts.
3. Data, Analytics, and Citizen Access
The citizen access that the democratization of tech enables can also lead to an increase in the number of people converting data into comprehensible knowledge. Big data refers to the massive amounts of data generated and collected online today. It comes from diverse inputs: mobile apps (which collect names, locations, and other basic information) and social media platforms, as well as healthcare and legal records.
Data needs to be refined (cleaned) before it qualifies as usable information, which can lead to conclusions that constitute knowledge. Only by applying data analytics can people make sense of the sheer onslaught of data generated every day. According to Mobcoder, “Enterprises worldwide use only 0.5% of the data at their disposal,” which speaks to a need to increase data analysis globally.
Big data analytics powered by AI are becoming increasingly available. With more workers tapping into open-source communities and mobile applications developed with programming languages like Java collecting massive amounts of data, the democratization of data analytics clearly will be a crucial need for the foreseeable future.
4. Democratizing Tech Knowledge
Gone are the days when a person needed to earn a four-year computer science degree to learn to code. The internet, perhaps the greatest example of democratized technology, has the power to inspire a culture of information sharing. Workers today have access to more programs and resources to reskill (train in a different field) and upskill (gain credentials and experience in their current fields).
The internet also provides a platform for experts and teachers to create resources to educate workers who are eager to learn. Cloud systems empower people to work from almost anywhere on many different kinds of devices (from phones to laptops to tablets), and apps can enable learners to translate resources from other languages, cross-check and compare information from reliable sources, and crowdsource ideas.
Launch Your Tech Career With a Training Program That Pays You
The democratization of technology is a movement worth celebrating. With so many possibilities for collaborative exploration and creative innovation, this trend of empowering people to harness tech’s cutting-edge tools promises to make our world more accessible and efficient.
Does democratizing technology inspire you? Are you ready to take the next step toward a career in tech? Learn more about Revature’s paid training and job placement programs. Revature helps recent graduates and current professionals gain the skills and training they need to break into the tech field.