Social impact organization, Out in Tech combats homophobia and transphobia with the use of technology.
Non-profit organization, Out in Tech, leverages technology to fight homophobia. Their impact program, Digital Corps, partners with WordPress to build websites for LGBTQIA+ activists and social entrepreneurs worldwide.
Out in Tech's Senior Program Director, Gary Goldman (he/him) worked as a United Nations consultant before joining Out in Tech full time. During his travels with the UN, he encountered an unfortunate phenomenon - the criminalization of same-sex relationships. "When speaking to activists and asking what they needed, something often came up: a website to be able to raise funds, share their stories, advocate for policy change, and grow their community," Goldman said.
Global and Local Reach
Digital Corps has created social justice platforms for organizations such as Voices of Women in Western Kenya and Ndabaga's Sisters in Rwanda, focusing on women's physical and mental health. Out in Tech also ensures that the groups Digital Corps engage include transgender women, especially as anti-trans violence increases.
To expand their human rights reach, Digital Corps focuses on community and support channels instead of specific interests like marriage equality or job discrimination. For example, organizations that advocate for incarcerated trans rights in Mexico or support queer youth in Africa nurture a much-needed sense of solace and community.
In 2016, Out in Tech built ten websites globally, including in Nigeria, Jamaica and Pakistan. Since then, they've built 170 more websites in 55 additional countries. Included in their list of partners are also human rights groups state-side.
Goldman stated, "We've actually built a dozen websites for groups in the United States." He goes on to say, "We've built a number of websites focusing on the most marginalized sub-groups of our community, specifically queer and trans people of color."
How it Works
The use of technology is vital to garner human rights for the LGBTQIA+ population, but it's more than undermining the international criminalization of LGBTQIA+ existence. Out in Tech hires volunteers to work with activists for about a month. During that time, the volunteers collect all the vitals like their mission statements, visuals, sub-sections and language preferences. Then, they pass this information to another cohort of volunteers who build the website within eight hours at no cost to the activists. In addition, the program arms them with a complete user guide that enables activists to independently maintain their websites, which is essential to maintaining their social justice work.
There are three criteria Goldman states that they take into account when choosing which activists and to work with:
- They require a website - not a social media page - to do their work.
- They have been active for more than one year.
- Does the organization already have a site?
These criteria help Out in Tech be more effective. For example, working with groups who have been around longer than one year is indicative of their desire to continue working toward their mission. These questions also help them provision the right size support team and prepare for existing technical issues. Finally, these questions narrow down the pool of applicants and identify the most urgent need.
How Digital Presence Can Save Lives
The work that Out in Tech does through Digital Corps also saves lives. While there are LGBTQ+ specific apps that build a supportive community, oppressive governments and extremists can also use them to target people in the LGBTQIA+ community. To respond to cybersecurity, Out in Tech also launched Safe Queers to provide cyber safety best practices.
"Technology," Goldman says, "as the leading industry of our time, has a responsibility to be inclusive of all individuals." Out in Tech does that by increasing access and awareness to resources worldwide. Awareness that effectively increases the acquisition of human rights in areas of the world that need the most support.
Goldman puts the importance of this initiative succinctly, "It's important to state that this is not a 'white savior' narrative; these extraordinary activists, wherever they are, are on the frontlines of fighting for LGBTQIA equality in their respective environments." He continued, "All we are doing is delivering a product that will help amplify their voices, and delivering a platform they can use independently for their benefit."
The organization doesn't just support the LGBTQIA+ community in other countries; they also have an incredible network of LGBTQIA+ people in tech coming together to volunteer their time and skills for good. Their community, which includes 40,000 members and 16 chapters nationwide, can access networking and career resources, including an open Slack channel.