Before he officially became President-elect, an open letter from Silicon Valley’s tech community outlined the reasons why President Trump would be “a disaster for innovation”:
“His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy—and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth.”
The letter was signed by the Valley’s most famous residents as well as a significant number of influential African Americans in tech, business, and entertainment, including TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot, Troy Carter, Tristan Walker, and Baratunde Thurston.
A Step Back for Science and Tech
Science and technology do not seem to be a big priority on Trump’s radar. In fact, he’s likely to take the country backward, with regard to science and technology.
One of his first 100-days-in-office pledges is to “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs.” As a climate change denier, Trump, instead, wants to use that money by putting it back into America’s water and “environmental infrastructure.”
He’s also made a stance against net neutrality, the idea that Internet service providers should not be able to regulate Internet access, bandwidth, or content. Instead, he’s turned the very idea of net neutrality on its head, claiming that the concept is a “top-down power grab,” by allowing the government to censor websites. One of the right-wing talking points is that—somehow—being pro-net neutrality means allowing the government to control content.
The Additional Problem for People of Color
But for African Americans, a very real threat is Trump’s promise to “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum, and order issued by President Obama.”
While Trump’s website doesn’t list any specific Obama actions to cancel, besides the Affordable Healthcare Act, it’s a safe assumption that Trump is set on obliterating just about any initiative put in place by the Obama administration. Unfortunately, many of these programs are dedicated to getting people of color from underserved communities up to speed, in an increasingly technology-oriented workforce.
The Obama administration launched a number of technology related programs and efforts in his first term, including Digital Promise and the National Robotics Initiative. It also expanded broadband access through the Recovery Act and placed the power of petitioning the White House via the Internet into the hands of the people with the We the People initiative.
His second term included the launch of TechHire, a federal program which prepares more Americans for high-tech jobs in the 21st century. Additionally, Obama’s Educate to Innovate campaign, which inspires and prepares more girls and boys to excel in STEM fields, especially those from groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
These national initiatives, put in place by the Obama administration, somewhat leveled the playing field, so that people of color, particularly young people, could acquire the skills needed to make them financially independent, contributing members of society. But now, those programs are now in danger, if Trump makes good on his promise to cancel out almost every undertaking of Obama’s administration, and people of color are in grave danger of being left behind in the 21st-century workforce.
While President Obama was science and tech-forward, Mr. Trump seems to be the complete opposite. And if Trump follows through with these plans, our future and that of our kids will be under threat in the coming years.
The Tech 100 is a column that looks at race, religion, sex, politics, and business, in terms of technology, because they are all connected somehow.