It’s Time to Desegregate the Tech Industry


NewCo Shift Forum 2018/Ignite Series

Blacks and Latinos will soon be 40% of the US population. Why are they only 5% of the tech workforce?

Karla Monterroso, CEO of CODE2040, is committed to closing the opportunity gap for Blacks and Latinos in the United States. Monterroso spoke at the annual Shift Forum earlier this year, in the Shift Ignite series (full overview is here).

Karla Monterroso: Hello. I was visiting my family in Guatemala this last year. My uncle was able to recall the most salacious details of our very embarrassing American election. I said to him, “Tío, how do you know all of this stuff?” He says to me, “Mija, what happens to you all over there impacts what happens to us over here.”

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We Don’t Need to Wait For Driverless Cars


NewCo Shift Forum

The case for basic income

Rose Broome (center) and team at Hand Up

The Shift Ignite series, curated by Brady Forrest at the NewCo Shift Forum, featured five minute talks from a diverse set of leaders, including Rose Broome, CEO of HandUp. In this talk (transcript and video below), Broome makes the case for a basic income in the United States.

Rose Broome: Hi everyone. By now, most of you have probably heard about Universal Basic Income. It’s a social safety net that gives everyone a payment that covers their basic cost of living. The basic income has had support on the left and the right. Martin Luther King believed that it would help end poverty.

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Facebook’s Free Data Scheme: All Eyes on the U.S. Market


Wesley Fryer | Flickr

Is Facebook’s free internet a Trojan horse? Facebook’s free internet plan, Free Basics, didn’t work out well when it debuted in India, but now Facebook has given the project an overhaul and has its eyes on a new market: the U.S. (The Washington Post). Free Basics is a system that lets disadvantaged users get wireless access to certain services and content free — they’re not charged against the monthly data limit. The argument for this “zero rating” concept is: let’s do a better job of bringing the benefits of internet connectivity to people who can’t afford it. The argument against it is, let’s not create a two-tier internet where poorer users get subsidized access but only to services like Facebook that underwrite it. (Last year, Susan Crawford persuasively made the against case.) The devil will be in the details, and it looks like federal regulators are moving with care. But cross your fingers that someone is looking out for the long-term interests of users here, and not just those of the BigCos.

For women in business, it’s the same old same old. U.S. businesses are still failing to make any kind of headway towards gender equality, according to a new study from and McKinsey. The review of 130 companies finds that women are “underrepresented at every level of the corporate pipeline,” get promoted less than men, and face extra resistance when they ask for raises. It’s even tougher for women of color. While none of this comes as a surprise, the sheer Groundhog Day-like familiarity of such results is getting painful. More than 70 percent of companies have made commitments to diversity, yet the needle has remained stuck. Less talk, more action.

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Scratch Any Innovation, You’ll Find Human Labor


Andy Armstrong | Flickr

Barefoot miners clamber down tunnels so we can have cheap batteries. Apple, like everyone who else who makes devices that depend on rechargeable batteries, needs cobalt. 60 percent of the world’s cobalt comes from Congo — from places like Kolwezi, in southern Congo, which features in an in-depth (and beautifully designed) Washington Post report on the cobalt supply chain. Cobalt here is mined by hand, almost always by impoverished people working in inhuman conditions — an “informal army” of barefoot “artisanal miners,” a euphemistic label for the subsistence-level work. Children wash the raw cobalt (in the same water their communities use to bathe and water their crops) and then it’s shipped off to China, where it gets put into lithium-ion batteries. Those batteries power phones, laptops, and now electric autos. The supply chain is complex and involves lots of handoffs from one company to another, which makes accountability hard. Many of the companies the Post contacted acknowledge that they need to set and enforce higher standards. The tough part is insuring that such demands actually translate to better conditions for the Congo miners at the other end of the chain.

Blue Apron’s warehouse woes. Like many startups, Blue Apron, the meal-kit delivery service, has scaled up fast, building warehouses and hiring workers to meet demand. Along the way, it also faced fines for an unusually large number of health and safety violations. That’s according to an investigation in Buzzfeed that focuses on Blue Apron’s facility in Richmond, Calif. Blue Apron created a lot of jobs in Richmond, and the hardscrabble city badly needed them. But the company “was unprepared to properly manage and care for those workers,” and the “chaotic, stressful environment” in its refrigerated warehouse made work an ordeal. The problems peaked one day in Aug. 2015 with two separate threats of violence and the conclusion of a tough review by workplace safety regulators. Since then, things have improved to some degree. But for Blue Apron, as for so many other companies seeking to transfer the efficiencies of the digital realm into the physical world, the Facebook mantra of “move fast and break things” turns out to be lousy advice. Food prep is difficult and potentially dangerous work. Blue Apron and its peers owe it to their workers and customers to find a better balance between scale and humanity.

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