In a demanding era, using new tools and sharpening old ones

Bridging digital distances

Ayush Agarwal loves speech and debate. When the pandemic forced debate tournaments online during his sophomore year in high school in San Jose, California, he realized what it meant to live on the other side of the digital divide.

Many of Ayush’s friends at other schools across the city didn’t have a computer or a stable internet connection to participate in online tournaments or sessions. Then, on a Reddit debate channel, he saw postings from around the country like, ‘Hey, I need help; I can’t get into these online tournaments,’ or ‘I can’t access Zoom because my internet’s too slow,’ Ayush, 17, said.

“That, to me, was just really disheartening,” he said. “These guys are fantastic debaters. They’re probably better than me, but they simply won’t be able to attend the tournament, not because they didn’t qualify for it, but just because they don’t have the capability resource-wise.”

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