SUD’S LAW

Shocking clip sparks fiery debate about a widening ethnicity gap in the tech industry

THE web has been whipped into a frenzy over a viral clip that appears to show a “racist” soap dispenser.

Facebook worker Chukwuemeka Afigbo filmed the flawed motion sensor after discovering he couldn’t clean his hands properly after popping to the loo.

A light skinned person sets off the sensor to dispense soap

Chukwuemeka Afigbo

A light skinned person sets off the sensor to dispense soap

The video shows a person with light skin receiving a dollop of foamy froth after waving their hand underneath.

When Afigbo, a former Google employee from Lagos, Nigeria, gives it a go, nothing comes out.

He takes a white piece of tissue and waves it under the dispenser and it appears to work.

Afigbo, whose video has been retweeted over 10,000 times, said that the problem was symbolic of the tech industry.

“If you have ever had a problem grasping the importance of diversity in tech and its impact on society, watch this video,” he wrote.

When Chukwuemeka Afigbo put his hand under, it wouldn’t work

Chukwuemeka Afigbo

When Chukwuemeka Afigbo put his hand under, it wouldn’t work

Naturally, it’s sparked much debate online.

Several argued that it reflects the lack of “POC” or people of colour in the technology and engineering industry.

One Twitter user wrote: “Maybe if the company that designed this employed a single dark skinned person they’d have found this problem earlier.”

‘Racist’ soap dispenser appears to only work for white people

Others jumped to the defence of the technology, claiming the issue was down to “bad lighting”.

It’s not entirely clear how this particular soap dispenser works, but it’s likely to use infrared technology.

These sensors send infrared light from a bulb which is reflected back from the hand – kicking the sensor into action.


SEXISM ROW What was in the Google anti-diversity memo, who is its author James Damore and what has he said since?


Dark colours return less light and could stop the sensor from triggering.

Major tech companies including Facebook, Apple and Twitter have previously been open about a diversity problem among its workforce.

Facebook’s latest figures show that 40 per cent of its technical staff is white, along with 57 per cent of its non-technical staff.

Erica Baker, a black, female engineer, has spoken out about concerns that diversity problems affect tech companies’ products.

The latest Facebook ethnicity figures from its 2016 workforce

Facebook

The latest Facebook ethnicity figures from its 2016 workforce

Writing in tech newsletter Lenny last year, she claimed: “Every time a manufacturer releases a facial-recognition feature in a camera, almost always it can’t recognise black people.

“The cause of that is the people who are building these products are white people and they’re testing it on themselves.

“They don’t think about it.”



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