The gig economy has created jobs in new places, both geographically and economically. Some rural communities are making a comeback, according to recent census data. Digital inclusion is at the center of it all. Many rural counties are seeing a boon in their economy as their residents work remotely and take online courses to develop new skills that can help them make a good living without having to leave the area.
Civic tech and advocacy groups have made great strides in providing low-income and underprivileged communities with affordable and robust broadband internet. This opens up a whole host of opportunities for work, particularly in areas where there’s a lack of industry and formal education. The abundance of free and low-cost online courses means people who wouldn’t otherwise access a formal education can now learn valuable skills that can make them a good living.
But even with all the work that has gone into creating access to the internet and education, there’s more to be done. Boosting the levels of participation in the digital economy among these low-income and underserved communities requires a focused effort.
Topcoder is working hard to close the gap in the digital divide. Our platform promotes digital inclusion by empowering people living in underprivileged, low-income, and rural communities to learn and use in-demand skills to benefit businesses around the world. The flexibility that comes with working for Topcoder also enables people to work from anywhere, which is particularly helpful for military members and their families, who move around constantly and have a hard time securing employment with every move.
With digital empowerment comes digital responsibility
Topcoder takes the work of digital empowerment extremely seriously. Topcoder is the largest platform in the world for crowdsourcing software design, development, and data science. Even though people work on the Topcoder platform as individuals, they aren’t isolated. Participation in Topcoder coding contests has been an effective way for enterprising individuals to earn money, gain new skills, and learn from peers in the digital economy.
Topcoder also recognizes a need for military personnel and veterans to have better access to remote working opportunities. Our Topcoder Veterans Community has registered hundreds of veterans seeking to rapidly upskill so they can fully participate in the digital economy after and while serving their country.
Kelly’s Story: A tale of productive pluralism
Workers in the digital economy generally have options when it comes to choosing where they choose to live and do their work and what type of work they do. But some groups have more flexibility than others.
Veterans who are transitioning to the civilian workforce represent a group of workers who don’t benefit from flexible work options, due to frequent relocation and software development training that doesn’t fit into the traditional workforce development models.
Using the Topcoder Veterans Community as something similar to an apprenticeship program has been a great solution for veterans like Kelly MacLeod. Kelly served a tour in Iraq and a tour in Afghanistan with the North Carolina National Guard. After returning from combat, she watched fellow warfighters and military spouses struggle to start a career. Having dabbled with coding as a hobby since childhood, Kelly turned to Operation Code and then to the Topcoder Veterans Community to rapidly learn how to code, by competing in coding contests developed from real-world projects.
As Kelly’s participation increased so did her ability and her Topcoder ranking—a powerful proxy for job success in software development. After winning challenges and earning stipends as a community copilot, Topcoder hired Kelly full time as a Challenge Architect. She now enjoys working remotely while still being an integral part of her community in rural North Carolina.
Kelly’s story is one of many. Her story demonstrates how digital inclusion through platforms like Topcoder is creating employment opportunities in new places. The ability to learn and develop a highly sought after skillset, and subsequently work anywhere with an internet connection, is helping people develop important skills and live better lives.