Technology For All
The economic model that once depended on manufacturing to provide secure and steady jobs with good salaries and benefits are perhaps long gone and with it the notion that a High School diploma and the willingness to work hard is sufficient. The technology revolution that took the place of manufacturing dominance has created monumental change in the way we communicate; do business; pay our bills and live our lives. Unfortunately, for a myriad of reasons, disenfranchised communities, women and people of color are often left behind in this brave new world, but not for long perhaps.
Recent developments might address existing bias in the technological playing field. On June 14th, a federal appeal panel upheld a ruling by the Federal Communication Committee (FCC) that the internet should be free and open to everyone. Furthermore, they ruled that internet connections should be a utility and not a luxury. This rule is called Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality ensures that everyone has the same access to the internet as a need and not a want. The Obama administration pushed hard for this initiative because it ends the discrimination of IP addresses and deep packet inspections by telecommunication companies.
In addition, the White House (under the Obama Administration) had also set up an educational program called the ConnectED initiative. This program focused on providing high-speed broadband and wireless internet in schools and libraries from K-12. Private sector tech companies, Government and School Administrators/Teachers were working together to train the future workforce of tomorrow with the support of Apple, Microsoft and Dell contributing towards this endeavor.
The Private Sector
The Tech community (namely Silicon Valley) knows that it suffers from an image problem. In public, the people who run Silicon Valley claim that technology should be open to everyone, but in reality, Silicon Valley hires few people of color and even fewer women. However, these current ‘Captains of Industry’ are hoping to change some perceptions by reaching out to non-profit organizations, tech groups and government agencies to encourage more people of color and women that they are welcome and their voices are needed. Two organizations that are inspirational towards this effort are Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code.
Many programs are currently being offered in an effort to increase diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Much of the curriculum targeted to young children encourages collaboration and creativity through interactive stories, games and animation. While the end goal is to spark interest in STEM fields its secondary vision is to teach, inspire and mentor children to be confident with technology and realize its potential in whatever career they decide to pursue.
If you are at a crossroads with your career, or know of a young adult who would like to learn more about technology, here are some organizations free and paid that provide online access towards that goal.
For Kids - Code Org
Structured Code Classes (for young adults)
Lynda (free for U.S. Veterans for 1 year through LinkedIn)
UPDATE: As of 2017, the FCC under new Chariman Ajit Pai is working to reverse Net Neutrality initiatives. Find out more about this battle to maintain Net Neutrality
UPDATE: 2/22/17 - The FCC has officially implemented the repeal of net neutrality, rolling back Obama-era rules that sought to protect an open internet. Reuters