The Latino Civil Rights Agenda Includes Expanding the 1%

This summer, The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the League of United Latin American Citizens
(LULAC) gathered their respective constituencies in Orlando to educate, inspire and focus the community on the issues facing a nation as it prepares to vote on the next term of the Presidency of the United States. Immigration took center stage with President Obama's recent executive order. But jobs remain on the minds of all. It's jobs and wealth, after all that are at the heart of the two Presidential campaigns -- particularly the questions of how to create new wealth, and how to inspire new jobs.

In the midst of both conventions, and talk of the jobs of the future was a conversation about the 1% -- which is the percentage of venture capital going to African American or Latino tech startups
last year.

Job participation by African Americans and Latinos in the tech sector is similarly low.

For a Latino community that lost 2/3 of its net worth in the recession and housing crisis, new paths to wealth and prosperity are sorely needed. The decline of manufacturing jobs, and the explosion of the tech sector means the future of wealth building must include an expansion of minority tech entrepreneurship. After all, today's new, tech- driven $100 billion companies do not create even a fraction of the full-time jobs that companies with similar value used to.

The digital divide -- the much discussed lag in home broadband adoption and digital literacy -- is a significant barrier to expanding the core of Latino tech entrepreneurship and connecting communities to tech-driven wealth opportunities. Latino coders do not just emerge from the 20-year-old set while away at Harvard with Mark Zuckerberg. Coders are born before high school -- typically in wealthy school and home environments, surrounded by easy access to technology. This is also what gave Bill Gates an early start -- very early access to advanced technology and computers of his time. Those early, tech-exposed kids go on to become the genius coders who invent the new GUI, and turn passion into millions of dollars of profit in the new app economy.

For Latinos, who are leading consumers of wireless, high tech stuff from smartphones, to tablets, to apps-- the opportunity to Leverage this affinity with technology, to mold producers who build wealth and create jobs using that technology is significant. But it craves action to build a digital culture of producers.

At the NALEO and LULAC conventions, we ask elected officials and grassroots community leaders, respectively, to engage in five activities that would help to expand the tech 1%:

1) Engage your community with the once in a lifetime opportunities in Comcast's
Internet Essentials and the cable Industry's Connect2Compete programs-- make sure every qualified family gets connected.
2) Partner with groups like Code Academy to teach coding in your community
3) Educate your PTA about the digital divide and ask them to make it a priority
4) Work with a local CBO/nonprofit to start a tech program if they
Don't already have one
5) Use your bully pulpit -- sound this issue, and encourage others to
seize the opportunity

The future of jobs and entrepreneurship will be more and more digital, less brick-and-morter and increasingly driven by technology.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technologyand Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on Twitter: @hispanicttp. LULAC is a founding member of the HTTP coalition.