How low-code apps can help address racial and economic inequality

It’s time to change the STEM conversation for a more equitable world

COVID-19, heightened unemployment, and civil unrest—2020 has been a year for the history books.

The pressures of the global pandemic have brought societal inequalities into sharp relief. We’re witnessing yet another manifestation of what the data has always made clear: Minority populations have fewer educational opportunities, fewer employment prospects, and less access to healthcare resulting in further disadvantage during these times.

The cause? Two systemic cycles: Racial bias and an opportunity gap.

As a leader in the software industry, an industry largely on the other side of the gap with skyrocketing stocks and salaries, I believe we have a moral obligation to help address both issues. Fortunately, we also have the means.

Low code can level the playing field

One opportunity involves a technology called low code software development platforms (LCDPs). LCDPs provide users the ability to write entire apps with far less or simplified code—perhaps eventually with no code at all.

Beyond the usual pitch of saving enterprises time and money is a powerful idea: Low code can be an equalizing force because it relies more on motivated creativity than on institutionalized advantages.

There is a larger democratization trend unfolding within tech—where commodity equipment, connectivity, and ideas put in motion together can help transform lives and communities. A social mobility engine that, with luck, can sidestep many obstacles.

Low code, coupled with the right investments and thinking, can be an important force for good.

So how do we unleash this force for equality? Let’s explore two immediately actionable ideas:

Idea 1: Transform the way we address STEM education and include low code

Low code can help us advance our STEM thinking and delivery. In fact, it can change the entire STEM conversation.

Not everybody is passionate about coding. Yet most people can find passion in relatable problems they can solve, creativity they can unleash, and ideas they can bring to life. Low code allows students to spend more time creating and less time worrying about bits and bytes. Perhaps, then, an interest in technology may naturally follow.

However, low code can’t break down educational barriers on its own.

Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus pioneered the advantages of offering credit to the poorest entrepreneurs. Yunus’ work also disproved many conventional notions of credit risk and reward. Individuals, public, and private organizations should apply similar thinking to how we invest in education, so that STEM education extends beyond the suburbs into communities that need opportunity the most.

As former president of the board and current board advisor for IGNITE Worldwide—a global non-profit that invests in STEM exactly this way for young women in underserved communities—I’ve seen this transformative power firsthand. The reality is human potential exists in all communities, and it can be seen almost immediately by bringing STEM into formal curriculum.

Idea 2: Make the dream of retraining more realistic with low code opportunities

Teaching modern software skills is not a magical cure for economic deprivation, and skills retraining is not always easy or viable. But low code enables easier on-ramps, shorter timelines to proficiency, and less specialized knowledge relative to traditional software development.

Whether it be a furloughed industrial worker or a small business employee who has hit hard times, applying experience and potential to low code opportunities could yield transformative results.

There are plenty of problems to solve in the world, big and small, and low code is ripe with entrepreneurial opportunities. It allows people to quickly gain the minimal skill required to execute while focusing their energy on solving underlying problems. And with a bit of time and passion, skillsets can grow as lives change.

Bridging the gap

Low code software cannot magically undo a long legacy of global injustice and systemic bias. Nor can it change the need for broad economic and social reforms.

However, if technologists and educators use low code to help bridge the opportunity gap, we can make a positive impact on communities and lives around the world.