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State of Net Conference Pledges Greater Diversity

State of the Net Conference
(Image credit: FuturN/Ae)

As the nation celebrates Black History Month, as well as a larger reckoning over the treatment of African Americans, the Internet Education Foundation said Friday that its State of the Net (SOTN) conference has historically failed to sufficiently represent diverse voices and it is pledging to improve on that record going forward. 

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The annual conference, the seventeenth iteration of which was held virtually three weeks ago, brings together policy players to talk about the present and future of broadband and internet policy.

"We have long curated the program to highlight differences of opinion among experts from across the spectrum of industry, government, academia, and civil society," SOTN said in a statement. "Yet, over those 17 years the speakers at SOTN have not always sufficiently represented women and communities of color. Over the course of our 25 year history, those voices have been woefully underrepresented in Internet policy conversations."

SOTN said that in the interests of accountability it was publishing charts illustrating the diversity--or in some cases lack of it--in its speaker lineup for 2021. That included that only 25% of keynote speakers were black and that white speakers constituted 68.2% of speakers while Black, Asian, Latinx and Native American speakers collectively accounted for 31.8%.

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"We have made strides over the years to bring more diverse voices to the table at State of the Net," SOTN said. "We've made great progress in some areas and have made incremental improvements in others. In other areas, we haven't made much of a dent and we need to do better.

Editor's Note: On Graphic, BIPOC stands for "Black, Indigenous, and People of Color."