As technology continues to become more and more a part of daily life, it's important for people of all income levels to have free, affordable internet access. (Courtesy photo)

Internet access for all crucial for success in Fourth Industrial Revolution

With the fourth Industrial Revolution upon us, San Francisco is well positioned to lead in addressing major challenges that technology brings for the future of our residents and higher education. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the fourth Industrial Revolution brings robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, augmented reality, genome editing and other innovations that will transform significant aspects of society.

Clayton Christensen, the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School who is known for the Theory of Disruptive Innovation, has predicted that less costly online educational opportunities with less reliance on faculty could lead to the closure or failure of up to 50 percent of universities in America by 2027, according to an April 2017 article from insidehighered.com.

Reed Sheard, vice-president and CIO at Westmont College, disagrees about the massive downsizing facing universities in the next 10 years, because faculty are key to education and likely to remain an essential component of the education process. Sheard argues that the rising costs of higher education are most likely due to wasteful business and technology expenses, according to an April 2018 online article from Forbes.com.

However, according to a December 2018 article from Educationdive.com, one thing is certain: Over 100 career and for-profit colleges and 20 nonprofit colleges nationwide have gone out of business in the last two academic years due to declining enrollment and more government scrutiny, among other reasons. In order for higher education institutions to survive the fourth Industrial Revolution, adaptation and transformation will be required.

Local governments and higher education institutions need to be prepared for the massive changes that the fourth Industrial Revolution brings now and in the near future. Faculty also need to be prepared for the many changes and challenges that technology poses in higher education teaching. Students and their families also face increasing challenges with technology, especially those who are low-income. For example, approximately 60 million individuals in the U.S. do not have access to the internet, according to an August 2016 article from the Nonprofit Technology Network (nten.org).

Internet access is even a challenge here in San Francisco, the center of Silicon Valley, where according to a July 2018 article from The Washington Post, cost is the major reason preventing over 100,000 San Francisco residents from internet access. The lack of access has a major impact on whether or not low-income students can complete online homework assignments and thrive during the fourth Industrial Revolution.

I believe the future is bright with opportunities; we must ensure that all of our residents, including low-income and underserved populations, can take advantage of the incredible opportunities that access to emerging technologies embodies.

San Francisco will soon decide how to spend $181 million from the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund; hopefully, a priority will be to help low-income, disadvantaged and underserved populations with free internet access and to invest in technology infrastructure to help change the structural inequality in society. I look forward to Mayor London Breed leading us forward in collaboration with local governments, businesses and higher education institutions to work toward establishing free internet access for all residents; it is essential for participating in, and achieving success, during the fourth Industrial Revolution.

Marilyn Murrillo is a doctoral candidate in the University of the Pacific Benerd School of Education Educational Administration and Leadership EdD Doctoral Program.

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