Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Black Pioneers In The High-Tech World and the Digital Divide @waynesutton

Wow. After 12 years...Blacks are STILL behind in technology? C'mon people. 

See this article (from Ebony magazine from 2000...discussing the "digital divide.") Most of these companies are Out of Biz. OMG!

Has anything changed in 12 years for Blacks in Technology? Read on..

THERE has been a lot of talk about the "digital divide," a chasm between the Internet access of Whites and Blacks. But less known are the stories of Black pioneers who are shaping the future with their successes--people like John W. Thompson, the first Black CEO of a major Silicon Valley firm. And 28-year-old Darien Dash, whose Digital Mafia Entertainment Interactive Holdings Inc. (www.dmeinteractive.com) is the first Black-owned publicly traded Internet company. And Air Force veteran Earl Stafford who founded Unitech, Inc., a multimillion-dollar military technology firm in Fairfax, Va.

The visionaries include scientists, executives, celebrities, professors and everyday people whose faith and dreams are carving new opportunities for Blacks. "We have been leaders in the development of the cell phone," says Yvette Moyo, president of MOBE IT (www.mobe.com) Influencers and Innovators of the Internet & Technology symposium series, a biannual technology conference.

  "We have been architects of the Internet. We have web sites that allow us to see ourselves in so many ways. We have taken a leadership role in everything that is being written today."

One of the biggest frontiers for Blacks has been the Internet. A 1999 U.S. Department of Commerce report, "Falling Through the Net," revealed that while more Americans are using the Internet, there are far more Whites online than Blacks and Hispanics. But there's also a more encouraging picture.

More than half of Blacks with college degrees are online. Eighty-three percent of African-Americans with household incomes over 90,000 are connected--a number slightly higher than Whites of similar incomes--says a recent poll by the Joint Center of Political and Economic Studies. That untapped community inspired people such as E. David Ellington to follow their visions for cyberspace ventures.

"I never worried about the audience," says the 39-year-old Ellington, CEO and chairman of NetNoir (www.netnoir.com), one of the first Black Internet companies. "I know Black folks will adapt to any technology and use it regularly whether it is computers, cellular phones, pagers, cable TV or boom boxes. For me it wits just a matter of time."

Ellington left his practice as a Los Angeles entertainment lawyer and joined three partners to create a global Black online community. They found seed money through a program for entrepreneurs funded by America Online and launched their Internet site on Juneteenth (June 19) 1995. But their early success was both a curse and blessing, he says. They were unprepared for the reluctance of the financial world to embrace their idea. "I first went to Black media companies and asked them to invest," he says. "But instead of investing or trying to develop the product, they wanted to buy us or close us down."

Finally, they found a Black venture capital fund that believed in their business. In its third month of operation, the site had 15,000 "hits," or page views, and became a national sensation. Today, NetNoir is a multimedia company whose web site gets tens of millions of page views each month. And it is no longer alone. "If someone would say, `I want to search for Black web sites and see what African-Americans are doing, they would be searching for days," says Moyo, whose business partner is her husband Kofi. "I just love the names --Black Voices, BlackPlanet, Black-Cyberspace. They give you a vision of what the future will be. They basically say no limit."

The Black online community includes information/portal sites such as Africana.com (www.africana.com), a Black history and culture site founded by a group of Harvard professors supported by Microsoft, Blackvoices.com (www.blackvoices.com), TheBlackworld today.com (www.tbwt.com), BlackGeeks.com (www.blackgeeks.com) and BlackPlanet.com (www.blackplanet.com), named the most visited African-American information site by Alexa, a firm that monitors traffic on the World Wide Web.

African-Americans have also made inroads in the world of e-commerce. Dwayne M. Walker heads shopnow.com (www.shopnow.com), a Seattle-based general market site whose million-dollar customers include StairMaster, Corel software and Zale's jewelers. Willie Richardson and Gwen Daye Richardson's Cushcity.com (www.cushcity.com) has become the most popular Black e-commerce site on the web.
Along with the work of Black Internet pioneers, other technological advances have come through Black scientists and engineers. Colleagues Dr. Mark Dean, IBM's director of advanced technology development, and Dr. Sandra Baylor, a master inventor in IBM'S research division, are among the new wave of Black computer architects. Dean, who designed the ISA systems bus--a device that allows modems and printers to link to computers, holds three of the nine original patents which made desktop computers available for personal use. He also directed the team of engineers responsible for building a 1,000 megahertz chip, which can complete one billion calculations per second. Dr. Baylor helped develop the prototype for IBM's chess machine, "Deep Blue." She holds seven patents and has four others pending.

Still other triumphs can be found in government, where a Black woman, Cheryl L. Shavers, Ph.D., was confirmed as U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology. "Technology is one of the last frontiers where you can be certainly judged by ability and talent," she says.

Shavers, who has worked in several engineering and management positions at large technology companies, says that instead of embracing the theory of digital divide, she believes in encouraging people to welcome technological opportunity. "The biggest challenge is not believing the hype but believing in yourself," she says.
Though there are success stories, there are just as many challenges, including the relatively small number of Black students earning science and engineering degrees and the fact that it is more difficult for Blacks to secure start-up money, experts say.

Shavers says the key to defeating those obstacles is education. "I have a 4-year-old daughter and I have responsibility to children between her age and myself to ensure that the trail I'm blazing gets wider and wider," she says.

Stafford of Unitech Inc. says the technological gap can be bridged when plugged-in Blacks help others get connected. "We have to learn that regardless of how little we have, we have to give back," he says. "Once we support our own by calling churches, fraternities and sororities and small businesses, we're going to have a totally different mind-set and get more people involved in this revolution."

Forrester Research, a Massachusetts technology analysis firm, predicts that the number of Black households with PCs will rise to 40 percent by the end of this year Stafford and other veterans say that jump would be due in part to the efforts of young people who are involved from the bottom to the highest ranks of technology. The future, they say, rests in the hands of twenty-something leaders such as Omar Wasow, executive director of Blackplanet.com, DME Interactive's Darien Dash and the generations that follow.
"The word `pioneer' makes me uncomfortable, but I'm honored by it," he says. "In the Internet, a 28-year-old can be a pioneer, because the Internet is not that old yet. We've just scratched the surface, and if I've been able to help to get people involved then I've been blessed and I'm fortunate."

Dash has already designed a plan to give free computers, training and access to underserved areas. "We need to start educating ourselves about technology," says Dash, whose clients include major companies such as HBO, LaFace Records and Microsoft Corporation. "And we need to teach one another. It's really the X- and Y-generations that are driving the stream."

Wasow, who traces his interest in technology to video games (Donkey Kong and Pong) played as a child, says he would like African-Americans to act as agents of their own success. In September of '99, the New York native founded BlackPlanet.com (www.blackplanet.com), a community for African-Americans on the World Wide Web. In its first month, the site had 10 million page views. In January of this year, BlackPlanet had more than 70 million visits, a number that makes it the No. 1 community site for Blacks.

Moyo and others say enterprises like Wasow's and Dash's forecast a future of amazing achievements for Blacks. "Once our young people embrace technology, we will be able to do the same thing on computers that we're able to do in the halls of Congress, in the world of literature and academia and on the basketball court," says Moyo. 

"Once we grasp the technology, we will be able to reach new levels."
Source: Johnson Publishing Co. 2000

About the Author of new book, Digital Divide, coming February 2012 by my friend, Wayne Sutton.

Wayne Sutton Wayne Sutton is an Entrepreneur, Advisor and Technology Journalist. Wayne helps individuals, startups and businesses succeed in understanding how to communicate on the social web via web development, user experience, brand strategy and marketing (Mobile and Social).

Visit me at www.PamPerryPR.com too!


  1. Very important info to know. Passing it on. Looking forward to Wayne's book.

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