At a Distance

New digital divide data; PDF CEE is on!; cyber-crime is up; and more.


Civic tech responds: Women Hack the Crisis is a global virtual hackathon running from April 30-May 7 for women across the globe who want to assist nonprofits, women in unsafe environments, small businesses, start-ups, freelancers, immigrants or refugee women weather the COVID-19 crisis.

The higher your income, the higher your median internet download speed. That’s the key finding of a new study by Jana Iyengar and Artur Bergman of Fastly.com. During the two-month period from late February to now, they report, “download speeds for those making less than $30,000 annually were 41.4% lower than for those making $200,000 or more.” One piece of good news—a move by Comcast on March 14 to permanently increase the speed of its Internet Essentials service that is offered to all low-income households, from 15 Mbps to 25Mbps, helped improve download speeds by 33% for the lowest income groups.

A coalition of industry groups, local governments, nonprofits, advocacy groups and schools/libraries led by Public Knowledge has written a joint letter to the congressional leadership urging them to include affordable broadband in any forthcoming COVID-19 legislation.

If you missed yesterday’s conversation with Daniel Schuman and Marci Harris about the need to shift Congress toward remote functioning, you can get a recap here (includes a link to watch the video and additional readings). Sign this petition to help press Congress to act.

Related: TechCongress has launched a Congressional Digital Service fellowship program to “to support institutional staff to address the glaring technical capacity gaps that have become all-too-urgent during this pandemic.” Applications are due May 10th.

Attend: Personal Democracy Forum-Central Eastern Europe is back on as a digital-only event, May 14. Details here.

Apply: TechEquity Collaborative is looking to hire a senior vice president of advocacy and organizing.

Tech and politics: United for Respect has launched a COVID-19 tracker, AreYouSafe.work, to enable people who work at Walmart and other places with unsafe working conditions to upload their reports onto a searchable map.

Activists are using Microsoft’s Flipgrid to invite people to share short videos about why voting is important to them. (h/t Democracy Labs)

Collective action while distancing: Here’s another report on what protest looks like in the age of social distancing, courtesy of Sarah Holder of CityLab. The answer: mostly people in cars, honking their horns.

Workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, Walmart, FedEx, Target, and Shipt are walking off the job tomorrow, May 1, to protest their companies’ failure to provide them with basic protections, Lauren Kaori Gurley reports for Vice. They are calling on consumers to boycott these companies in support.

Amazon is clamping down on internal employee email listserv usage, Shirin Ghaffary and Jason Del Rey report for Recode.

Students are also organizing, filing lawsuits and threatening strikes (via class and registration boycotts) demanding rent and tuition relief form many universities, Terry Nguyen reports for Vox. The University of Chicago has already agreed to a tuition freeze for the next year, but 500 undergrads are planning to withhold their current spring quarter tuition, asking for a 50% reduction and the elimination of student fees.

Cyber-crime is flooding the internet during the coronavirus, and two civilian-led Slack groups with thousands of members, the COVIC-19 Cyber Threat Coalition and the CTI League, are being relied on by governments worldwide for help, Kevin Collier reports for NBC News. The Cyber Threat Coalition maintains a block list of domain names that appear to be traps set by hackers or scammers which is updated constantly. The CTI League works on protecting health care targets from hackers, helping to identify vulnerabilities in hospital networks before criminals can exploit them and offering volunteer services if they are attacked.

Privacy, shmivacy: Apps for tracking people with COVID-19 symptoms have lots of problems, but that hasn’t stopped them from proliferating, report Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Natasha Singer and Aaron Krolik for The New York Times.

Nearly 60% of Americans say they are either unable or unwilling to use a new virus tracking system being developed by Google and Apple, a new poll done by the Washington Post and University of Maryland shows. (One in six Americans lack a smartphone, for one thing.)

End times: Room Rater is a breakout hit. Coffee table book next?

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