Posts Taged digital-literacy

As Unemployment Rises for African Americans, Digital Literacy Could Be The Solution

As unemployment rates continue to remain high among African Americans. As this article on NewsOne shows the results are staggering. The issue is that these are more than statistics, they represent people with lives and families and people like you and me. The other problem is that mainstream society will not come up with solutions to solve this problem in the short term so we need to start coming up with them ourselves.  I believe that is continuing to be overlooked is the Internet and wireless arena. While these unemployment numbers continue to rise technology companies are hungry for talent. Creating programs where the unemployed  can be trained to fill these needs at Internet and wireless companies is key. Jason Calacanis @jason suggested recently that html/css bootcamps be created and the participants pay only if they get a job in  the tech sector. If the government would fund these type of programs it would do more to change the current minority unemployment situation than any of the current ideas on the table. Digital literacy creates digital empowerment which allows people to take advantage of digital opportunities. And if you don’t think the problem is worth focusing on look at the numbers below

Examples of cities where Black unemployment has risen dramatically:

2006 = Birmingham, Alabama = 5.3 %

2011 = Birmingham, Alabama = 14.5%

2006 = Miami, Florida = 6.7%

2011 = Miami, Florida = 17.2%

2006 = Los Angeles, California =  8.6%

2011 = Los Angeles, California = 19.3%

2006 = Detroit, Michigan = 12.00%

2011 = Detroit, Michigan = 25.7 %

2006 = Las Vegas, Nevada = 13%

2011 = Las Vegas, Nevada = 25%

2006 = Charlotte, North Carolina = 8%

2011 = Charlotte, North Carolina = 19%

Read more at NewsOne

Schools Are Failing at Teaching Kids Tech

I came across an interesting  article recently that struck a cord with me. The woman in article talks about how she remembers how she was taught basic technology concepts in school.  And by learning those concepts her comfort level for technology was nurtured even though she was not a “geek.” Her nostalgic look reminded of those times and how true she was. Schools did teach basic technology skills as part of their core activities and that part of the learning process is almost totally absent in schools today when it is needed more than ever
Douglas Rushkoff wrote a similar article ” Why Johnny Can’t Program: A New Medium Requires A New Literacy” Where he also contends that our schools are doing children a disservice by not teaching them programming skills.  The bottom line is that we are missing the boat when it comes to teaching our children the skills to enable them to be technology innovators. In this facebook, twitter and Foursquare society we are not equipping our next generation with the skills to create the next wave of tools that  could change our live. What do we do to change this problem before it’s too late?

Encrouraging Government Procurement of Minority Tech Start-Ups

The post originally appeared on Politic365

The Internet is a topic of conversation in D.C. more than ever these days.  It has spawned companies like Google and Facebook that have not only changed how we find and share information but have also impacted the economy with job creation and monetization opportunities for companies of all sizes on their platforms.  Yes, the Internet has been a life-changing bed of opportunity for thousands of small companies and individuals, alike.

Within all the opportunity, however, there lies a problem that does not seem to be improving, not to mention it’s a little secret that many people just aren’t talking about:  the lack of diversity in the start-up technology space.

It’s not a hidden issue per se, as reports from CB insights show us the hard data that less than 1% of start-up founders are African American.  Yes, minorities are consuming media (especially those accessible across mobile devices) at alarming rates, but they are not involved in the product creation process in a manner that ultimately yields jobs creation and economic opportunities.  The excuse that minorities just adapt to technology later than their non-minority counterparts, which was one of the justifications given when the term “digital Divide” was coined by Larry Irving, no longer can be used to justify this gap.   Calling it a “Digital Lag,” as I recently heard on a call, in an effort to show some sort of progress does not mitigate the lack of production on the part of minorities either.

The problem here, is bigger than access or adoption of technology.  What we’re facing is systemic, as noted in reports by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies or the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which find that  less that 50% of African Americans and slightly over 50% of Hispanics have adopted broadband internet at home. What, then, does this mean? It means that minority youth are not growing up with the Internet in their home.  They are not developing the comfort and confidence with the technology that enables them to realize that they can be producers, not just consumers, of the latest new online gadget or widget; that empowers them to think, “what if I built something”?   The result?  Many minority youth don’t have access to all of the free online learning that is available to them.  Or, if they have access to it, they have not yet learned how to realize the power of technology and leverage it to their own best benefit.

When others talk about this issue they usually place one sided blame on the investors in the space.  I don’t really agree with that.  Several parties contribute and can help with the situation and receive benefits from helping. An entire calculus is involved in changing the culture from consumption to production and involves everyone from VCs and angel investors, start-ups large and small, minorities themselves and the government.

All of the private entities and individuals mentioned above are already known to our government, which is gradually taking steps toward embracing technology with initiatives like data.gov and the code for America ,but in order for us to create a new level of interest and engagement among our citizenry, we have to do more bring minorities into the fold.  Here are a few ideas for what the government can do to further incentivize techonology adoption and use.

  • Increase Technology Education in Schools: If you have seen “waiting for Superman” then you know the dire straights our inner city schools are facing. With the wealth of free information out there on sites like Khan Academy teachers can incorporate more learning resources than their budgets allow and also promote self discovery and inspire kids to move toward success in this era of “no child left behind.”
  • Subsidize Broadband Access and support Public-Private Partnerships: Whether through neighborhood wifi or discounts, we have to get broadband Internet into the hands of minority youth at home.  The library and school are good but they need it in their homes to change the systematic issues associated with non-adoption and hyper-consumerism.
  • Offer Digital Literacy Training For Adults: Since this issue is not new, we need to bridge the digital literacy gap with working adults so that they are comfortable with technology at home and can encourage their children and peers to be as well.
  • Create Digital Entrepreneurship Incubators: In the Start-up space there are technology incubators (Ycombinator and TechStars are two of many) which help fledgling entrepreneurs get thier company off the ground. The challenge with a lot of these programs is that the entrants come in with a certain set of skills (i.e. usually the ability to code) which causes minorities who lack such skills to shy away from these programs. The government could help by creating entities that train  people on the skills they would need to go into one of these incubator programs or even offer similar preparatory programs for people with a different skill set in the technology arena.
  • Create More Technology Programs For Kids:  Recently the Science and Engineering festival was held on the national mall.  This program was a partnership between corporate and non profit sponsors.  More of these  STEM programs need to happen in inner city schools.  These programs show children the excitement of solving problems with technology.
  • Continue to Give Incentive’s To  Small Businesses: The Small Business Jobs Act that President Obama signed recently was a great first step, they need to continue to give incentives to investors to invest in small business and minority and women-owned businesses as well.
  • Focus On The Real Issues: Our government can only do so much at a time, and should focus on issues like these which will have an immediate impact on people regarding job creation and increased economic opportunity.  Not that they can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but while the government is accutely focused on contentions issues like those related to Internet regulation, they are less able to focus on issues such as these that can have more immediate impact on the population at large.

Steps have certainly been taken in the right direction under the Obama Administration, but there is much more the government can do to foster innovation and opportunity in the tech space, particularly among minority populations.

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What I learned about the importance of broadband literacy in urban areas from the barbershop

I’ve been going to the same barber for about 12 years now. When I first met him he was working in a local barbershop and now in true entrepreneurial fashion he is now the owner of two full service salons in the area. He knows I’m in the tech space so we always have discussions about tech gadgets mixed in with the sports trash talking and banter about current events that you can only hear at the “shop” So today when I went in with my sons to get a fresh one and there was a little wait till it was our turn. I decided to whip out my iphone (like I do a pretty much at any idle moment) and finish watching iron man on Netflix (I started last night and it’s one of my favorite superhero movies). When it was my turn in the chair my barber asked me what I was doing and I proceeded to explain. The more I gave him details about Netflix streaming the more I could see I was getting the attention of the rest of the shop. By the time I told them that I could watch movies not only my computer but on my xbox 360, playstation 3 and my Wii, the whole room was hooked. The shop was explosive with people talking about how much they spend on renting movies while others talk about how cool it would be able to watch the whole season of their favorite show or one of their favorite movies. Things had almost quieted down until someone asked me the price. When I told them 8.99 a month then room erupted as if someone hit the game-winning basket. Half of the room was talking about signing up to Netflix and then watching movies on their game console, the other half about how they were going to get iphones so they could watch them anywhere but ALL of them talked about how they were going to get a broadband internet connection set up at home.
As I walked out of the shop I thought about how this is on this is only one of the 1000 of benefits of having broadband access and how no one in the room knew about it. All of the Internet companies wish for a room of new customers that they could introduce their products to but more importantly a room full of people to immediately see the value their product brings their lives. I also thought that this is the data the government should be hearing and seeing for themselves not scare tactics about hypothetical problems. The real problem is that there are people out here who are not aware of the transformative power of the broadband and the many ways it can benefit and improve their lives. And the lionshare of those people missing out are minorities. I want to see more people make connections like I the one I saw today. I truly hope the government puts it’s focus in making sure everyone has access to broadband, educated in it’s benefits and made digitally literate. Once we do that there will be more broadband conversations in barbershops everywhere.

Underrepresented

Surprised?  No.   Disappointed?  Yes.

That’s how I feel after reading this report on Blackweb 2.0 that says only 1 percent of web start-ups are from African Americans. “Overall, African Americans are still underrepresented in both the tech and entrepreneurial sectors,” the story notes.   The research advised that “burgeoning black techpreneurs” might find a greater reception and investors for their ideas in New York’s Silicon Alley.  I have wrapped my career — and it has become my passion — around the hope that more young blacks will be motivated and inspired to take the leap.  Our tech landscape needs their talents, ideas and voices.

Motivated to do something about it?  More than ever. Stay tuned !!!