Tag Archives: minority

Apple’s Diversity Chief Departs After Just Six Months

Denise Young Smith

Denise Young Smith, a 20 year Apple veteran, is departing her job as the first Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion after just six months. Smith has announced she will be accepting a position as executive in residence at Cornell Tech in January.

Smith’s departure was planned but comes on the heels of a controversial comment made in October.  Smith was speaking on a diversity and racial injustice panel at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia. She was asked by Quartz’s moderator Aamna Mohdin  if she would focus on any specific group in her diversity efforts. Her reply was not well received. Smith said she wouldn’t single out any one demographic for advancement. Her comment, transcribed by TechCrunch is as follows;

“I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color or the women or the LGBT or whatever because that means they’re carrying that around… because that means that we are carrying that around on our foreheads. And I’ve often told people a story—there can be 12 white blue-eyed blonde men in a room and they are going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation. The issue is representation and mix and bringing all the voices into the room that can contribute to the outcome of any situation.”

Silicon Valley has a serious diversity problem and Apple is not immune. Apple’s workforce numbers show that only 9 percent of Apple’s workforce is African-American, 12 percent Hispanic, 19 percent Asian and 56 percent white. It’s not a pretty picture when you consider that most non-white employees are found in  Apple’s retail stores. Smith was expected to at least make progress on the issue but not a lot has changed. However, she was working on developing Apple’s diversity scholarship program.

Realizing she had fumbled the issue Smith emailed her team following the comments;

Colleagues,

I have always been proud to work for Apple in large part because of our steadfast commitment to creating an inclusive culture. We are also committed to having the most diverse workforce and our work in this area has never been more important. In fact, I have dedicated my twenty years at Apple to fostering and promoting opportunity and access for women, people of color and the underserved and unheard. 

Last week, while attending a summit in Bogota, I made some comments as part of a conversation on the many factors that contribute to diversity and inclusion. 

I regret the choice of words I used to make this point. I understand why some people took offense. My comments were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it. For that, I’m sorry. 

More importantly, I want to assure you Apple’s view and our dedication to diversity has not changed.  

Understanding that diversity includes women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and all underrepresented minorities is at the heart of our work to create an environment that is inclusive of everyone. 

Our commitment at Apple to increasing racial and gender diversity is as strong as it’s ever been. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but there is much work to be done. I’m continually reminded of the importance of talking about these issues and learning from each other. 

Best,

Denise

Breaking It Down

This was  a sad day for the idea of diversity in Silicon Valley. People of color thought Apple had appointed a warrior to fight the diversity fight. Perhaps they did. Perhaps Smith misspoke. People do that. But her statement reveals how severe the diversity problem is in Silicon Valley boardrooms. A boardroom that she was apart of. Did she feel not focusing on a single group was an effective strategy? Again, perhaps. But diversity is about bringing in different colors of skin as well as ideas. Its about inclusion. I believe her when she said she believes in that. What she failed to realize is that ‘blue eyed blond white men” are not what her job asked her to bring in. This is just not what diversity advocates want to hear from a person in her position. Wrong choice of words Ms. Smith but lets move on. Smith is a women. A black women. A successful black women. A successful black woman at the world’s most successful company. She was in a position to change things, to make difference, To find other women and minorities who are as capable as her and look like her. I’m not going to label her a failure. But she clearly stumbled.

 

 

New FCC Chair Scrutinizing Lifeline Program

Trump appointed Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai is rolling back some of his predecessors actions. The new chairman has already begun to make changes to programs that help schools and low income families. Arguing that the the FCC’s Lifeline program is riddled by fraud, waste and abuse he has shut down a small expansion to the program. Lifeline discounts $9.25 per month off broadband or phone services for households near or beneath the poverty line. Pai claimed last year that the program loses around $476 million annually to waste. Others disagree with these numbers. But the statement highlights Pai’s concerns with the program.

Broadband service providers have to apply to the commission before offering these subsidies to customers. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler had extended the program to nine more providers. Pai  has decided to delay their approval until changes are made to the program. However there is no threat the Lifeline program is being eliminated. Currently there 900 companies participating in the Lifeline program. Most are offering subsidized phone or Internet services and some are offering both.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

According to Pai the system needs to be tweaked to prevent companies from enrolling people who are not eligible.

In addition to his rollback of the Lifeline program, the FCC has also withdrew a progress report on the expansion of E-rate. E-Rate is a program that subsidizes broadband and computer equipment for  low income school districts. Changes could be coming to this program as well. The commission has not commented on future plans to revisit the Lifeline and E-rate proceedings.

But the question remains whether Pai’s changes will legitimately fight abuse or will the FCC make it harder for legitimate low-income households and school districts to participate.

One of the major problems of the digital age is what has become known as the digital divide. This is the gap between those that can afford high speed acess to the Internet for things like education and those who cannot. This socio-economic group, made up of mostly minority households, maybe left behind in the age of information. Being left out out of the Internet revolution has some serious consequences. 

Schools and education suffer because of lack of high speed Internet access. According to a Pew Foundation study 56 percent of teachers in low income schools say that their student’s inadequate access to technology is a ‘major challenge’ for using technology as a teaching aid.  Only 18 percent said their students had adequate access at home. Urban teachers are more likely to say students have poor access to Internet at school, while rural teachers are more likely to report that students have poor access at home. This issue creates a class of students who are unabe to fully particiate in a technology based economy. 

Today’s workforce requires technology skills but the lack of these skills, practiced at school and home, creates a disadvantage in the search for jobs. The digital divide increases the difficulty of finding a job. This means it lowers not only the chance of finding a suitable job but also the ability to secure a decent income.

Most employers recieve job applications online. But this method creates inequality among job seekers by dividing them into two classes, those who are computer literate, and those who are not. These workers lack knowledge of Internet based information and communication tools. People caught on the wrong side of the digital divide with no access to the Internet lack the technology and digital skills that the modern workplace requires. All these factors create a class of people who are locked in poverty caused by low wages and inadequate education.

A good example is the city of Detroit, MI. This city is stricken by poverty among urban blacks who simply cannot afford computers and Internet access. According to the FCC Detroit has the worst rate of Internet access of any major American city. Four in 10 of its 689,000 residents lack broadband Internet access.

Detroit is not alone. Among the worst cities for Internet connectivity are Cleveand, OH, Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL and Miami FL. These are the people that federal programs like E-rate and Lifeline is intended to help.

Now you know

 

Low Income Families To Receive Broadband Subsidy

fcc-seal_rgb_emboss-largeThe Federal Communications Commission has voted to provide subsidies to low income families for broadband Internet service. 

The decision expands on the 1980’s era Lifeline program that provided a monthly subsidy of $9.25 for voice-only phone service. The FCC plan costs $2.25 billion with a clause attached that states that if the Lifeline program came close to that amount the commission would have to choose whether to increase the funding. Republican members of the commission voted against the expansion believing that limit could easily be exceeded if the FCC either votes to increase it or does nothing. The FCC expects that figure to increase as people take advantage of the new broadband subsidy offer. Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are considering a bill to put a cap on the program’s spending. 

Internet and broadband access has become a human right issue. The Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly declared access to the Internet a basic human right which enables individuals to “exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression.”

In the United States there is a significant digital divide between the rich and the poor as well as racial groups.  A 2012 Pew Report “Digital Differences,” revealed that only 62 percent of people in households making less than $30,000 a year used the Internet. In contrast households with income of $50,000-74,999 was at 90 percent.

Looking at the issue from a racial perspective showed only 49 percent of African-Americans and 51 percent of Hispanics have high-speed internet at home. Compare this to  66 percent of Whites.

The digital divide has a definite impact on a family’s economic well being as well as a child’s educational development. A Pew survey of teachers of low income students tended to be less able to use educational technology effectively than their peers in more affluent schools. Of teachers in the highest income areas 70 percent said their schools provided support for incorporating technology into their teaching. Only 50 percent of teachers in low income schools said the same. Teachers in low income schools said that inadequate access to technology is a “major challenge” for using technology as a teaching aid.

Major corporations are also stepping to help bridge the digital divide. Comcast recently announced a pilot program that will bring low-cost Internet service to public housing residents in Miami-Dade County, Nashville, Philadelphia and Seattle. Comcast, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ConnectHome initiative set up the program to fight the digital divide. As many as 40,000 public housing residents will benefit from the program.

Normally, Comcast’s Internet Essentials package costs $9.95 a month. The service comes with a free Wi-Fi router and families are also offered computers for less than $150. All public housing residents in the four pilot markets are eligible to apply for the service online or by calling 1-855-847-3356.

Comcast reported that since 2011 it had invested $280 million to help fund digital literacy training initiatives and has distributed more than 47,000 subsidized computers at less than $150 each.

Another major technology company, Google, says it’s going to give away its high speed Internet service through Google Fiber to thousands of low-income Americans across the country. The program kicks off in its Kansas City market at theWest Bluff Townhomes community in Kansas City, Mo. Ultimately, as many as 1,300 households in Kansas City, Mo. and Kansas City, Kan.

Google Fiber eventually plans to wire “select” public housing buildings in all of the cities where it operates, the company said.

President Obama, the nation’s first cyber president, is also backing a plan to provide as many as 20 million more low-income families to affordable broadband services by 2020. 

Breaking It Down

Ignorance equals poverty. The two intercourse and breed. And that is where a lot of our problems begin. Access to the Internet is a human right because we cannot allow a restriction on information and education to create a bed for poverty and ignorance to lay. We need to accept that all children have a right to rise up from poverty. The FCC is making it clear that we need to help these families and in the long run help ourselves.  This nation and indeed the world came to the conclusion that telephone was a vital instrument. Now we face the same reality with the Internet.

 

 

 

Affordable Internet Access

digital-divide-word-cloud2The digital divide is real. Too many low income black families are falling behind in education and employment opportunities due to the prohibitive costs of computers and Internet access. This lack of access to technology and information has created an underclass of people who are digitally absent in our society. This is not news and is not necessary.

African-American children without Internet access in the home fall behind their classmates in educational achievement. As they get older and enter the job market they are behind the curve in computer skills. This limits the jobs that they can successfully apply. Its a trap for poverty.

According to Cheapinternet.com  29 million households in the U.S.  have school age children. Five million of those families lack high-speed Internet service. The lion’s share of that 5 million are low-income black and Hispanic households.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, “School-aged kids without broadband access at home are not only unable to complete their homework , they enter the job market with a serious handicap,” she said. “And that loss is more than individual. It’s a loss to the collective human capital and shared economic future that we need to address.”

But there are bridges across the digital divide. There are companies focusing on providing affordable Internet access to the economically disadvantaged.

EveryoneOn.org is a nonprofit organization who’s mission is providing Internet access to all. The company has offices in Washington, D.C and Los Angeles and are working to  “leverage the democratizing power of the Internet to provide opportunity to all Americans regardless of age, race, geography, income, or education level.”

Everyoneon.org provides economically disadvantaged families with affordable computers and access to free computer classes. The company believes that all people should be equally connected. They add: “Through partnerships with leading Internet providers and device refurbishers EveryoneOn is able to offer options of home Internet service for $10 or less a month and $150 computers for low-income individuals and families.”

Basic-Internet.com has partnered with EveryoneOn to provide the badly needed Internet connection.  Consumers have two plans to choose from for mobile access.

First is the $10 a month plan providing for 1.2 GB of data at a 4G speed, then unlimited data at 3G once the 1.2GB runs out. The second plan offers a $20 a month plan for 3.2GB at the 4G speed then unlimited again at 3G. 

However affordable the plan is the customer must still buy the Wi-Fi device and that could cost as much as $75. But that is a one time purchase.

But just having an Internet connection falls short of having the skills to use the technology. EveryoneOn offers educational information on its website that will help the consumer to learn how to use email, find health information, educational resources, financial literacy and job hunting resources.

Many poor families find the price of a computer can be beyond their reach. Thankfully there are resources than can provide refurbished computer at affordable prices.

Angie’s Angel Help Network provides a listing of computer providers for low income families and people with disabilities. Organizations are listed nationally and state by state.

Long before the days of the Civil Rights movement black people have always known that education is the key to escaping poverty. Now in the information the struggle is to gain access to information. The information super-highway need not have excessive tolls.

For more information on affordable Internet access please visit Cheapinternet.com to find a listing of companies.

Now you know.

See also; Obama Unveils ConnectHome to Get Low Income Households Online.

Economic, Racial Digital Divide Creates Larger Education Gap Nationwide

 

App of the Week – OneRx

OneRxMedicine is expensive. Whether you have insurance or not the price of prescription drugs can be astronomical. That is why OneRx is the App of the Week.

Why are prescription drugs so expensive. Because drug companies spend billions of dollars and years researching and testing new drugs. Sometimes only to have the Food and Drug Administration deny them the the right to sell it. There is always the chance of a massive lawsuits from unforseen side effects. Creating a new drug is a gamble. If approved for use by the FDA, the drug company has the right to recoup their investment plus profits over a period of time usually years. Only then does the generic equivalent hit the market.

Generic drugs are the biochemical equivalent of a name brand drug and even though they are the same drug they sell for much, much less than brand name drugs. According to the Food and Drug Administration generic drugs save the consumer $8 to $10 billion dollars a year in retail sales.

Black people still struggle to pay for much needed medications. Research shows that people of color are twice as likely to be without medical insurance than white Americans. According to the NAACP;

  • 18% of African Americans under 65 years are without health insurance coverage.
  • Over 103 million people of color nationwide suffer disproportionately in the health care system
  • A larger share of African Americans and Latinos lack a usual place of health care, and they are less than half as likely as whites to have a regular doctor.

One Rx has a way to help. OneRx combines coupons and insurance discounts to figure out how little a person has to spend on medication. The app allows the user to know the price of the medication before the doctor writes the prescription. This is especially helpful if you find your insurance doesn’t cover the medicine prescribed.

The best thing about this app is that it works even if you don’t have insurance.

OneRX takes the users insurance card information that is submitted by picture or input by hand. It then combines how much your insurance will pay with available coupons then tells you what pharmacies can give you that price. If you are having trouble paying for prescription drugs you can find more help here.

OneRX is free and available for Apple and Android devices.

 

SketchFactor; Is This A Racist App?

uptown-sketchfactorLast August an app was launched that has raised some serious questions about racism and technology. The app is named SketchFactor and its purpose is to alert the user of dangerous neighborhoods in cities they maybe unfamiliar with. Does this make the developers of SketchFactor racist?

SketchFactor works similar to the Yelp  app which uses the personal views of customers to rate restaurants and other services. But the suspicion is that SketchFactor is using words like ‘dangerous’ and ‘drugs’ to hide racism. That these so called “dog whistle” words communicate and promote the idea that some areas are dangerous based solely on the skin color of the people that live there. But lets be real; is that not occassionally true. Are there not neighborhoods, even whole counties where blacks are not welcome? Ask anybody in the south. Would that be a sketchy neighborhood to a black person? What about white wealthy neighborhoods where a black person is viewed with suspicion? Ask Jaime Foxx.

SketchFactor was created by Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington. Yeah, they are white. The creators developed the app to allows user to rate a neighborhood’s “relative sketchiness” on a five-point scale. The app also uses publicly available data to complete the sketchiness rankings.

Anyone who moves to a new city would want to know what areas to avoid. High crime areas are first on the list of course. What about areas where there is no bus or taxi service? Areas of the city where there are high rates of prostitution? If you took a job in the downtown area of a major city wouldn’t you want to know that the neighborhood changes after dark? There are two ways to learn this information; someone tells you or you learn it first hand and hopefully not the hard way. And that is where SketchFactor steps in and delivers this information to your mobile device or computer. Not smelling any racism yet.

But the question has to be what is the definition of “sketchy?” There are a lot of words that can be used in place of sketchy when describing a less than desirable neighborhood. You could use dicey, suspect, shady, iffy, whatever. The Team SketchFactor blogdefines sketchy as “an event that’s uncomfortable and out of the ordinary.” Ok, but an event that is uncomfortable and out of the ordinary depends on the neighborhood and its inhabitants. For example; it is not out of the ordinary to see homeless people in San Francisco. It would be in Leesburg, VA.

But what if the phrase was used to describe a minority neighborhood or a singular experience in a neighborhood?  What is the SketchFactor of a white person who finds himself in a black or minority neighborhood compared to the feeling of a black person who feels the eyes of a white community on him when he finds himself there? What about being pulled over in a rich white neighborhood in the middle of the night just for being black? Now we can talk racism.

SketchFactor has some powerful reverberations that I am not sure that the creators took into consideration. First of all how has the app been marketed? Who is it directed toward? I have a feeling that there are a lot of fearful travelers who will use the app to make sure they don’t book a hotel that is too close to a “sketchy neighborhood.” The Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco is just a block or two from Union Square and also just a block or two from the  Tenderloin, one of the San Francisco’s “sketchiest” neighborhoods. So how long before businesses start to look upon this app as a danger to their well being? 

Another factor that has to be realized is real estate value. There are some homeowner(s) that are not going to be happy with the SketchFactor score of their neighborhood and react legally. There are lawsuits coming when you consider the use of the app and what it can do to property values and business especially if a few trolls decide to blackball the neighborhood. 

The creators of the app have made a point of making sure that the users understand that they are not racist. You can find the declaration on the launch page of the app. But that tells me that they understand that the app has some users who will indeed use the app to unfairly downgrade a neighborhood. They acknowledge it openly.

To prevent this the app uses an upvote-downvote rating system. According to the interview with Huffington Post McGuire believes that system will keep “super-racist” posts out of the system. Ms. McGuire please explain “super-racist” compared to regular-racist?”

McGuire also noted that users can search for crime-related ratings or can search for “bizarre discovery,” “catcalling” or “racial profiling.” The creators of the app stated that they use use publicly available data to rate neighborhoods. But how does the opinion of users compare to the real data collected by local police or other organizations? They did say they use this information in their rankings didn’t they? So can the user of the app make comparisons of statistical data compared to user posts?

McGuire asked the question;”Wouldn’t it be useful to understand where stop and frisks are actually happening?” She added “My mission in life is to give a voice to the voiceless. SketchFactor gives a voice to anyone with a smartphone.”

In her defense McGuire also clarified in an interview with Crain’s New York that people of all races, not just white people, can download the app. And that makes sense. McGuire admits that she does not encounter many sketchy neighborhoods even though she lives in New York. The affluent West Village neighborhood of Manhattan to be exact.

“I live in New York now. So almost nothing’s sketchy to me anymore.”  Really? I would ask Ms. McGuire to talk about the feeling she gets when she walks out the door and sees a “sketchy” black man standing on the corner? And how would the black man feel? Would he use the  “SketchFactor” app to point out that the white people of West Village are suspicious of black people in the neighborhood?