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Tech Inclusion for Excluded Communities

How to bring high-tech operations into excluded communities

Ali1 was a computer science engineer from a Palestinian-Muslim family in Israel who lived far from the country’s geographic and economic center. Ali graduated from a prestigious Israeli academic institution and was hired by a well-established software company in Tel Aviv—an exception in an industry where only a tiny percentage of tech professionals are Arabs. The company that hired Ali had no other Muslim or Palestinian employees.

His culture and national identity were unfamiliar and unrecognized in the office, and he felt alone on Muslim holidays, let alone politically charged national ones, such as memorial and independence days. Additionally, working in the center of Israel required him to be on the road for four hours a day because renting an apartment in Tel Aviv was virtually impossible. Ali stayed at the company for less than a year.

Ali’s story is not unique. It captures the underrepresentation of excluded communities in economic growth sectors around the world, particularly in the technology industry. This underrepresentation is but one component of the separation and alienation such communities experience. When their neighborhoods are also geographically segregated, the dominant society sees them at best as destinations for “exotic tourism” and at worst as off-limits because of fear of crime or other perceived threats. Interaction between people from the dominant and excluded societies, when it occurs, revolves around the services that the latter furnish, as waiters, cleaners, construction workers, manual laborers and other low-level service providers.

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