By Dr. Kevin Harris
Program Director, Cybersecurity, Information Systems Security and Information Technology
President Biden’s signage of the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act created a new federal holiday. On June 19, we commemorate Juneteenth, the day that slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned that President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had granted them their freedom. This joyous news, received by slaves on June 19, 1865, shows how crucial it is to have timely access to information.
President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on September 2, 1862 with an effective date of January 1, 1863. But sadly, it was over two years before the slaves in Galveston were notified of their freedom. The lack of timely information, in this case, allowed men, women, and children to be subjected to further bondage and robbed of receiving fair pay for their hard labor.
Ensuring Equal Access to Critical Information
Juneteenth should serve as a constant reminder of not only a horrible time in our country’s history but also how we should ensure that everyone has timely access to critical information. The internet has allowed data to be shared globally in seconds. However, there are people who still do not have equal access to information because they lack computers or smartphones, which is known as the “digital divide.”
The digital divide prevents many individuals from accessing broadband internet and presents a socioeconomic barrier. The inability to access the information superhighway can be a limiting factor in education, healthcare and employment.
Technology Also Allows Misinformation to Spread Quickly
While there are ongoing initiatives to increase broadband coverage in both urban and rural areas, it is important to remember that access to technology isn’t the only challenge. The internet provides opportunities for large amounts of misinformation to be spread quickly and easily by those who want to hide the truth.
Social media platforms should continue to look for technical solutions to limit misleading posts. Similarly, individuals must perform their due diligence and verify the truthfulness of social media content before sharing it with other people.
The Importance of Communicating Timely Information and Having a Diverse Workforce
Today’s digital information transmission relies on a complex computing infrastructure that must be secured from hackers. Recent cyberattacks — including the JBS meat producer, Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds — underscore that no industry is safe from growing cyber threats.
But communicating timely information about cyberattacks and learning cybersecurity lessons from these attacks will help others to harden their cyber defenses. In addition, strengthening cybersecurity by ensuring the presence of a diverse, inclusive and talented workforce will help to ensure our nation can better fight the ongoing threat from hackers.
While we celebrate Juneteenth, let’s not forget the steep price of not being able to receive timely information. Crucial information is not only vital to our society but also our cybersecurity.