The Latino Technology and Innovation Agenda

By Jason Llorenz, [email protected]

Immigration is not the only issue that has moved Latino hearts and minds.  Like all Americans, the economy, jobs and education, remain top issues for a Latino electorate that played its biggest role in the history of modern elections.

The following four years of the Obama administration will be judged through several prisms by Latinos, whose position as a swing vote in key states (the Latino vote was the only group of 2012 voters whose participation grew this cycle), strong entrepreneurial spirit and growing middle class, will make the community a bellwether for the economic advancement of the nation.

So, what are the technology and innovation policies that can set the framework for Latino advancement in a renewed Obama presidency?

The issues underpinning America’s position as the world’s innovation leader are of critical importance to Latinos. These issues can be organized into three buckets that we will identify here, and explore in detail over three forthcoming blog entries:

  1. Access and participation
  2. Education and readiness
  3. 21st Century infrastructure

Access and Participation

Mobile technology has changed the conversation on the digital divide. In fact, Hispanics lead Americans in mobile broadband usage and mobile phone ownership, according to Pew. Mobile technology has created a new onramp to the Internet – and the evolution of devices powered by more and more powerful wireless networks are connecting more Americans everywhere – even in the most hard to reach places.

Despite these trends, there is more work to be done to fully participate in the tech economy. As widely highlighted, only about 1% of tech startup dollars went to Latino and African American owned firms, combined, last year.

Meaningful Latino access and participation in the innovation economy demands attention to the way we prepare Latino techpreneurs for participation in the nearly $50 billion app economy that has blossomed along with the evolution of high-speed wireless networks.

The app economy and its entrepreneurs may deliver solutions to health disparities, expandhigh quality education, and facilitate global business. Expanding Latino participation in this innovation engine is among the highest economic priorities.

Key questions to be addressed are, how can we promote a digital culture through investments and public/private partnerships? How can our civic institutions, chambers of commerce, colleges anduniversities facilitate the advance of a beneficial digital culture?

Education and Readiness

The issues facing Latino education are going digital and mobile. Teacher training and quality, evaluation and equity must be addressed in an education environment that will now be more and more digital, and facilitated by wireless tablets and devices that will replace books.

Technology by itself cannot solve our deepest education challenges – but technology can help facilitate success, and access to resources for the Latino youths most in need, if edtech programs are implemented with equity at the forefront of planning. We must ask how will technology facilitate education success for all students?  How will we prepare a generation of teachers to implement 21stcentury tools, assess that implementation and advance education equity?

21st Century Infrastructure

The Internet is the infrastructure of modern commerce. It has evolved through billions of dollars in private sector investment, and created millions of jobs.

Today’s Internet is more mobile, more social, and more likely to be accessed via rapidly evolving wireless devices that put the power of a microcomputer into purses and pockets, facilitating productivity and communication virtually anywhere.

To support this growth, we need policies that encourage investment and innovation in advanced networks. It also requires government action to free up a limited resource – wireless spectrum – to keep pace with growing consumer demand , and ensure the Internet continues to empower us for our needs well into the future.

Policy Frameworks

The Obama Administration begins a second term with the expectation and necessity of economic leadership. The technology and telecommunications sectors have long been a bright spot, even in a tough economy – and the right policy environment can facilitate the sector’s growth, along with greater participation in America’s fastest growing segment.

Over the next three blog posts, we will explore the issues highlighted above one by one, and identify the issues and policy recommendations of some of the best thinkers and advocates in each space, making recommendations for a renewed administration and the new Congress to consider.

This article was first published in [email protected].

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is an attorney, advocate and speaker whose work focuses on emerging communities and the policy issues facing the technology and innovation sectors. He serves as an Advisor to the Mobile Future Coalition. Follow on Twitter: @llorenzesq.

[Photo by edududas]

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