By Bill Britt
Latino Policy Connection Contributing Writer
Local Latino elected officials and policymakers representing a wide swatch of Southern California recently converged on the Cal State LA Campus for the Latino Policy Forum’s “21st Century Cities and Schools.” The main themes — Bringing technology to cities and school districts, and addressing the technology jobs gap — were offered in a series of presentations and workshops geared for an audience that has a significant role in shaping California’s use of technology.
“If you want to be relevant you need to be connected,” said Santa Ana City Councilmember Michele Martinez. “You need to know how to engage your constituents, and you do that by being innovative and using technology.
South Gate City Manager Michael Flad said he couldn’t agree more, and was there to remind elected officials that city managers are their go-to people. “My interests are always in imparting some pretty basic information. When you look at IT-type things, sometimes policymakers just look at an initial upfront cost. The other thing I really hope folks would get out of this is the need to plan it out.”
Both Flad and council member Martinez were among the panelists on “Wired Cities,” one of three 90-minute workshops. “Wired Schools” focused on bringing classrooms into the 21st Century while the third workshop’s title posed the challenge, “How Can We Get More Latinos Into the Tech Jobs Pipeline?”
Alhambra Mayor and Latino Policy Center Board President Luis Ayala regarded the offering as a perfect panel trifecta. “In this era it’s very important to be able to take advantage of technology to make government more efficient and these panels today focused on that.” Ayala helped kick off the event by telling attendees how impressed he was by the tech savy of a neighboring city while he was at a soccer field and noticed the lights weren’t on. “The Parks and Recreation director turned on the lights with his mobile device. We should be able to take advantage of those kinds of opportunities.”
The panel focusing on the technology jobs gap was moderated by tech entrepreneur Deldelp Medina, who proudly admits to growing up as “a geek girl with a geographic advantage” of living in the Bay Area. The co-founder and CEO of Avion, the first accelerator dedicated to Latinas in the mobile tech space, says the Policy Forum was “a really interesting conversation for me, listening to folks to see what their day-to-day needs are.”
Of course, it was only fitting that attendees used their smartphones to answer before-and-after surveys, which revealed the majority of them were interested in attending even more technology workshops and panels. It was exactly what Latino Policy Forum organizers were wired to hear.