I am reading a great book called Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing by Dr. Jane Margolis from UCLA. The book is an investigation of three Los Angeles high schools: an overcrowded urban high school, a math and science magnet school, and a well-funded school in an affluent neighborhood. What the research reveals is a “virtual segregation” that maintains inequality and keeps African American and Latino students from pursuing a degree or career in computer science and technology.

In this post I want to share with you different perspectives from two African American students named Jontille and Nia from a Los Angeles public high school as to why African American and Latinos shy away from computer science. Here is what Jontille had to say:

The minorities—Hispanics, African American kids, they’re not really interested in it. But I think that’s only because they haven’t been really shown how to work with computers. So, therefore, their interest lies elsewhere. But I noticed that a lot of the Caucasian students, they’re into technology, and a lot of the Asian students [too]. . . . But I think that if they [African American and Hispanics] knew that they had more access to it, that they would do it, you know?

Her friend Nia had this to say:

I think minorities are. . . are scared, you know, to jump into the future because what it looks like is only Caucasians should be in that industry.

Wow! Are you as shocked and astounded as I am? Keep in mind this book was published last year before Barack Obama became president, so hopefully our young people think different about what opportunities are open to them. However, I believe that we still have young black and brown children who are afraid of technology and see computer science as a field only open to whites, asians and indians. 

This issue is really more complicated than just changing our young people’s self-confidence and self-image about where they fit, in terms of technology and the world in general. I think a good start in changing our young people’s paradigm is educating them about our history and contribution to computer science. Perhaps this means during black history month focusing time on IT trailblazers like John Thompson and Dr. Mark Dean coupled with the usuals like Dr. King, Malcolm X, etc. Any thoughts?

Mikey Digital

Source: Stuck in the Shallow End (2008), pp. 2-3



How many of you have heard of MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte and the One Laptop Per Child project he started back in 2005? Basically the project is an initiative to close the digital and educational divides in the world’s poorest countries by providing each child with a rugged low-cost laptop. The laptop was designed specifically for the conditions that these children live in, so if they drop the laptop or spill a liquid on it won’t keep it from working. The project took off in 2005 and has continued to grow in visibility and stature even though they recently had a few setbacks due to the economy. Originally the way the project worked was you purchased a XO latop for a child in a developing country and you would receive one. The Give One Get One program ended on December 31st of 2008. The way the program works now is you simply purchase the XO laptop for a child, however you don’t receive an XO laptop in return.

What I plan on doing over the next few post is breaking down how the continent of Africa and its government has embraced this project. Today I will start by looking at ‘one laptop per child’ in South Africa. The effort to bring 100 XO laptops to Kliptown Youth Program South Africa was launched in March of 2008. According to the wiki site an additional 150 XO laptops were delivered to the Kliptown Youth Progam in November of 2008. Below are the current statistics for the OLPC effort in South Africa:

  • 650 XO laptops have been delivered to youth programs, foundations, and area schools throughout South Africa.
  • OLPC english keyboard is being used.
  • South Africans are being trained by IT consultants like Neo Masilo on how to use and setup the XO laptops in schools throughout South Africa. 

Hopefully the number of XO laptops being shipped to South Africa continues to increase over the next couple of years despite the economic downturn here in the states. I feel optimistic the organization will stay affloat more so because they have increased (at least in Chicago) their marketing efforts on billboards and bus stops which should hopefully drum up additional support for the project. An example of marketing in South Africa is a video of a young boy named Zimi who received an XO laptop. Here is the video:

The One Laptop Per Child project offers many opportunities to volunteer with the project. Please check out their site at http://laptop.org  and learn of the different ways you can get involved with their efforts.

Mikey Digital

Source(s): wiki OLPC South Africa, laptop.org

The Pew Internet & American Life think tank recently released its latest research on Internet access, Internet, email and cell phone usage among different demographics and criteria. For example, the research factors in high school graduates versus those with no high school degree. The statistics for African Americans aren’t great, however we have made great strides compared to previous statistics. Here is the breakdown:

  • 73% of the population reports using the Internet or email. The statistics show that 59% of all blacks are using the Internet or email. Somewhat shocking, English-speaking Hispanics lead, even whites at 75%, with 80% while 32% of Spanish-dominant Hispanics are using the Internet or email.
  • 78% of the population reports owning a cell phone. The statistics show that 73% of blacks report owning a cell phone compared to 79% of whites and 80% of English-speaking Hispanics.
  • 55% of the population reports using a high-speed connection (e.g., DSL, cable, wireless) when accessing the Internet from home. The statistics show 41% of blacks report using a high-speed connection when accessing the Internet from home. This is compared to 55% for English-speaking Hispanics and 56% for whites.

As I mentioned earlier, the statistics aren’t bad because as a community we have made tremendous progress. However, we still have a lot of work to do in order to get our people online and using technology as a tool that can impact their lives. What the statistics do show is that the Hispanic community is not only increasing in population, but also increasing its presence online and its usage of technology. In posts to come I will dig a little deeper into the statistics and see if I can pull out some strategies to continue to increase the presence and usage of African Americans online.

Mike Digital

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Survey

 At the end of last year tech pioneer and Black Data Processing Association (BDPA) founder Earl Pace set down for a candid interview with Don Tennant from Computerworld. Below are some excerpts from that interview:

In your experience, in what ways does racism typically manifest itself in the IT workplace? Computerworld demonstrated one with its 2008 Salary Survey statistics about the disparity in remuneration. It manifests itself in promotions. It even manifests itself in the way in which companies interact with BDPA. We have companies who are very anxious to come to BDPA’s conferences because they want to hire our technical people. But they are loathe to come to a BDPA conference to demonstrate their software or hardware, to deal with us as a high-technology organization where the people who are moving through our expo are people who can and do influence purchasing decisions. Those kinds of presentations and exhibits are very difficult, almost impossible, for us to get. We have booth after booth of companies that want to hire people.

How is the problem of racism in the IT workplace changing? Is it becoming less of a problem, or is it just manifesting itself in different ways? It is not less of a problem. It is, perhaps, more subtle or sophisticated. There are some promotions that have occurred. There are probably more African-Americans and other minorities that have been promoted to senior-level positions than existed in 1975 when BDPA was formed. But the impact of those people at higher levels is marginal with respect to bringing other African-Americans up the pipeline to replace or to supplement them.

Are the challenges faced by African-Americans in the IT workplace different from those faced by other minorities? If so, how are they different. This is a complicated issue to describe or to put your finger on. There are myriad opportunities that people have to discriminate, and color is a significant one. Sometimes it’s exacerabted by the exposure opportunity that you have had. For instance, people from India often have a color issue. But the emphasis is reduced by a skill set or by a perception that these people have been trained and are technically sophisticated. Regardless of that, they do experience a degree of discrimination simply because of skin color.

Hispanics run the gamut of skin color. With African-Americans, because of our historical legacy in the United States, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. Some you experience as a business owner, and some you experience in your job.

What is your response to black IT professionals who say they just want to be thought of as IT professionals, not as black IT professionals? That they are operating under a delusion.

What has to happen in order for there to no longer be a need for an association of black IT professionals? Parity. What I would like to emphasize, though, probably more than anything else, is that professional organizations are very, very necessary, particularly for African-Americans and other minorities. The necessity doubles when you get into economic circumstances like what we’re in now. A professional organization gives you an opportunity to develop skills that you’ll need in your workplace but does it in an environment that is supportive, as opposed to combative.

Mikey Digital

Source: http://www.computerworld.com

Good day my fellow digerati’s! I know I preach on my site about what we need to do individually and collectively to help increase our chances of moving up in the IT field, despite the odds. In addition to my pie in the sky rhetoric, it would be nice to hear about someone who looks like us who has shattered the glass ceiling we’re on a quest to shatter as well right? Well, look no further than Ms. Waltons, a computer scientist, who is the Manager of the Advanced Engine Test Lab at General Motors. Below is a video of her story and how she overcame the racism of one of her professors at the University of Michigan to excel in Computer Science.

Mikey Digital

Source: Career Communications

Dr. Mark Dean

Dr. Mark Dean

The next time you use a personal computer you can thank Dr. Mark Dean who co-invented components of the IBM computer. Dr. Mark Dean is vice president of the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California, and senior location executive for Silicon Valley. Dr. Dean oversees more than 400 scientists and engineers doing exploratory and applied research in various hardware, software and services areas, including nanotechnology, materials science, storage systems, data management, etc. An engineer by training, Dr. Dean has over 28 years with IBM where he has held several different technical, research and leadership positions. During his tenure at IBM, Dr. Dean has been central to the design of a wide range of IBM products.

Dr. Dean has also received numerous awards for his achievements including the highest  technical honor of being appointed a IBM Fellow in 1995. Dr. Dean has more than 40 patents pending approval which is an unprecedented for an African American engineer. In terms of his educational background, Dr. Dean received a BSEE degree from the University of Tennessee in 1979, an MSEE degree from Florida Atlantic University in 1982, and a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.

Dr. Dean is also very concerned about closing the global digital divide and more specifically the digital divide in the African-American community. In an rare interview Dr. Dean outline the below solutions that can be implemented to close the digital divide:

  1. Educate young people in math, science, IT, and the opportunities available to individuals with this knowledge
  2. Accept information technology in homes, community centers, churches, and businesses
  3. Implement a diverse IT workforce that mirrors the nation’s cultural landscape

” We must act now because all of the benefits of the information revolution awaits us”

– Dr. Mark Dean

Mikey Digital

Sources: The Black Digital Elite (pp 17-23), Wikipedia

The new issue of USBE & Information Technology reports that despite the economic crisis, software engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, network administrators, and IT security specialist remain viable jobs on job sites like www.jobfox.com. It goes on to point out that those of us with the skill set for these jobs would find plently to choose from in cities like Atlanta, Houston (I would argue Texas in general), Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. Recently the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that five of the top 30 fastest-growing careers in the world are computer related. Despite layoffs, the IT workforce has grown by 10.2 percent in the past four quarters.

Now, the article I read in USBE is a sharp contrast to a recent article I read in NSBE Magazine called Blacks in Computer Science The Secrets of their success.’ The article did a good job of pointing out the increasing growth of African-Americans in Computer Science, even though the statistics used came from data dating back to 2006. However, I disagreed with their notion that the field of IT is bleak. For example, the article states ‘there are very few who would recommend that their son or daughter go into engineering or computer science because few see it as a high-growth field.’ The truth of the matter is we live in a information society where just about everything is driven by computers and technologyand we shouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon. As my one of my Computer Science professors said in class last week, ‘the genie is out of the bottle on this information society that we live in.’ In other words, we live in a global world driven by technology that needs people like us with the skills to develop, implement and administer the technology of the present and future.

Me personally, I’m very optimistic that the Information Technology industry will survive this current economic downturn. My advice to us is to start preparing now for the IT jobs of the future, especially those that should come out of the IT initiative that the Obama Administration plans on implementing.

Mikey Digital

Source(s): blackengineer.com, nsbe.org