We have just experienced a beautiful spring weekend in Loudoun County – sunshine, flowers blooming as memory of winter fades. Resurrection is at hand in many ways, Easter among them.
It is an opportune time to reflect on our values: respect for the truth, for each other and for our Earth, as we try to set examples of compassion, respect for differing viewpoints, and cooperation between adversaries to solve problems. We citizens can make America hopeful again – a shining example for a strife-weary nation and world.
Our county is a good place to start. We have an economically vigorous eastern section, balanced by a scenic and an ecologically intact rural west. Our median household income is among America’s (and the world’s) highest.
Our population is diverse:
—68 percent are white (of which 1/6th speak principally Spanish at home)
—15 percent are Asian
—8 percent are African – American
—9 percent are of other origins
Of this total 23 percent were foreign born, and only 15 percent (mostly still children) were born in Loudoun County. So we, collectively, are representative of the world, as well as of America, a land of immigrants.
Politically we are balanced. In the 2016 election 52 percent of Virginia’s 10th District (principally Loudoun County) voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton for President, and 52 percent for Republican Barbara Comstock for Congress.
We are well educated – Loudoun County public schools were recently rated eleventh in the U.S., and 58 percent of Loudoun’s adult population hold a college bachelor’s degree or higher, versus a state average of 35 percent. And, luckily, Loudouners get along pretty well with each other.
All this puts Loudoun – us – in a great position to address the two current threats that could destroy our civilization if we cannot solve them – atomic weapons proliferation and climate change.
These cannot be solved by nationalistic threats or bombast. They will require diplomacy, sitting down together to discuss the realities, the facts, starting with each other, next with our allies, and then with our current big power rivals– Russia and China – to find common ground on which to build a peaceful world. That is in everyone’s interest, not just America’s.
Let’s start by seeing if our members of Congress – Senators Warner and Kaine, and Congresswoman Barbara Comstock—would be part of the effort. By attaching then to a diversified group of concerned Loudouners, maybe we can start a movement to save our children’s world.
The homepage for Google Fiber is emblazoned with a banner promising “Super fast downloads. TV like no other. And endless possibilities.” However, for over 50 percent of the world’s population, Internet of any form is not accessible. Given this harrowing statistic, why is it that many companies push forward with new ways to “move forward” with Internet and other network technologies, instead of devoting efforts to help allow everyone a chance to surf the web?
Engineering, a field rooted heavily in quantitative analysis, research, and methodology, can often overlook a crucial facet of society – ethics. While fields such as public policy, business and law are often thrust into the ethical limelight due to their direct effects on the public, engineering, specifically the fields of computer science and electrical engineering, has equally profound influences on humanity. The scope of these sects of engineering is far reaching, with many household companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook promoting themselves as global participants in the research and development of cutting edge technology. With the ubiquity of the Internet rapidly advancing in the 21st century, it’s undeniable that this allows individuals more opportunities to explore new material, interact with the environment around them, and have their voices heard worldwide. Therefore, instead of just catering towards the current users of the Internet, leaders of this industry need to step up and work towards a universal platform that allows as many people as possible to be connected.
Providing Internet access to everyone globally is not just a problem centralized in one geographical region. As seen in the table below, obtained from Internet World Stats, every global region has a portion of the population that does not use the Internet. Each region has a variety of different socio-technical approaches that need to be taken in order to make worldwide connectivity a reality, including infrastructure, cost, and maintainability.
Some of the statistics, however, point to questioning behavior on behalf of technology corporations. For example, North America has 12 percent of individuals that don’t use the Internet – surprising given the promotion of the region as a leader in “the future” of science and engineering. While it is the case that for some, this non-use may derive from apathy due to age, companies should start looking towards the future – one where the Internet is too ubiquitous to ignore. Here, the solution is just a matter of extending out from the current Internet network in place. In other parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa, the percent of non-users is substantially lower. However, in comparison to North America, lack of infrastructure, such as one third of the sub-Saharan population not having access to grid electricity, is what drives this technological lag. Bringing these locations into the electronic realm will require much more planning and foresight, but nevertheless should be a top priority in order to truly offer “endless possibilities” to people around the globe.
Currently, individuals and small collectives have been addressing this problem and proposing a wide variety of solutions. Google’s Project Loon, now turned over to X, has conducted extensive testing on balloons that transmit high speed internet from the stratosphere, granting internet access to any location on Earth. Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, has taken to the web, advertising his plans via Internet.org. In addition to confronting the lack of technology necessary to connect to the internet with novel approaches such as lasers and drones, Zuckerberg also approaches the issue from economic and social perspectives, working with businesses to make the service cheaper to individuals that could have network connectivity, but can’t due to cost. If large companies are set on pushing forward with innovative network technology, this problem is the perfect opportunity to help the global community in tandem with their corporate objectives.
While conglomerates in the technology business believe that they have an obligation to create new, revolutionary products, they also have a larger ethical role in helping to provide all individuals around the globe the opportunity to connect to the Internet.
With over half of the population not using this technology that has profoundly influenced and shaped social, political, and economic aspects of the world, there is a large breakdown between what will help further society and what will make the most money. Although there are ideas currently in place to help make this dream a reality, these leaders in the technological community all need to prioritize giving everyone the same opportunities as we move forward in the digital era.
Eric Wuerschmidt, a native of Northern Virginia, is a computer engineering major at the University of Virginia.
“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.”
This quote from one of the greatest authors of the 19th Century, Henry David Thoreau, and truly exemplifies who Mark Herring is and what he stands for and battles against.
Throughout his political career, Mark Herring has been a man who lives his beliefs and follows through on his promises. Leesburg, Loudoun County, and the Commonwealth are better places because of his leadership. We have seen his stance against racism and intolerance since the Trump Administration took office. Along with our Governor, Herring held a press conference to speak out against the “Muslim Ban.”
His office was one of the first attorney general’s office in this country to act after the “Muslim Ban” was announced. He has since visited and spoken at town halls throughout the Commonwealth discussing the AG office’s dedication and commitment to defending and protecting the rights and liberties of all Virginians, especially Virginia’s minority communities.
The Republican Party of Virginia has taken issue to Herring’s attendance at a town hall at one of the largest mosques in Virginia, the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, with the Nation’s leading Muslim civil rights organization, the Council on American Islamic Relations. The petition found on their website urges visitors to tell the AG to apologize for attending the town hall. The petition is riddled with unfounded allegations and untruths which are often used by Islamophobes and bigots.
Herring’s attendance at this town hall is on par with his message that Virginia is a state of tolerance and inclusion and his office will stand up for all Virginians against those who espouse and encourage hate.
Our Attorney General does not owe anyone an apology. Virginia’s GOP leadership needs to reevaluate the message of intolerance they are advocating and learn from Herring how a Virginia statesman represents his people in the best interest of the Commonwealth.
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