What most schools don’t teach (by CodeOrg)
Can’t believe that SXSW is around the corner. Just a year ago we were speechless when we found out we made it into the Startup Accelerator Finals. SXSW was a fantastic experience for us personally and professionally. We officially launched Votifi in Austin and the experience contributed to much of the success we had this past year.
We’re looking forward to attending SXSW again, this time as Discourse Analytics. Thanks to everyone who voted for our panel on the Panel Picker. Lou will be speaking on a panel called “Latinos y Mobile: The Silver Bullet” on March 8th at 5:30 PM [link].
Joining him on the panel are Kety Esquivel (moderator) who is currently a VP at Fenton Communications (@KetyE); Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens (@BrentWilkes) and Estuardo Rodriguez, a principal at the Raben Group (@EstuardoDC).
New times call for new methods and as Einstein said you can’t solve the problems of today using the same technology we used to create them.
No where is this more the case than in the Latino community: a highly diverse, highly mobile, highly tech adaptive population. There is no better place to explore these issues than at SXSW.
Today we’re also launching the second installment of our LatinoVoice survey to elicit responses on the impact of technology in the Latino community.
Last year at SXSW, we learned that Latinos saw blogs and Facebook as the best places to interact with others in the community, felt passing the DREAM Act was a top priority, and believed vocational education was the best way to realizing the American Dream. What will we learn this year?
Take the survey, pass it along to your friends, and help us make the Hispanic voice heard this year at SXSW.
You can follow the conversation on twitter at #mobileLTN. And let us know if you are going to be at SXSW this year. We’d love to meet up.
By Aasil Ahmad
One of the things I’m proud to be involved with is Access, an organization dedicated to preserving internet access and privacy for the world’s most vulnerable internet users.
One thing that is clear - the battle for freedom on the Internet is not just something that affects activists in Syria, Burma or Egypt. It affects everyone with a mobile phone or internet connection.
The International Telecommunications Union (the UN agency that handles this stuff) has been holding (secretive) meetings to talk about a global governance regime for the internet. It approved a new technology standard that basically makes it very easy for governments to eavesdrop on everything that flows over the internet. This can’t be a good thing. Brett Solomon, Access Executive Director, penned an essay in Wired in which he explained why the UN should not be making decisions about the architecture of the internet behind closed doors.
At least there is someone working day and night to promote awareness and innovation in this space. Earlier this year Access announced its first ever Tech Innovation Prize. The purpose of the competition was to encourage hackers around the world to develop products and features that integrated technology with a human rights objective.
The Access Innovation Prize is a new initiative that will award 5 lots of US$20,000 to individuals, organizations or networks that have the best actionable ideas of how to use information technology to promote and enable human rights or deliver a social good outcome. $100,000 will be granted in 2012.
The categories for the competition include:
For the best actionable idea to help build an open-sourced, blackout resilient technology for use by activists and human rights workers in conditions where there is a need for alternate communications infrastructure to the one put in place and/or controlled by the authorities. For example, where there has been a communication network shutdown.
Making Crypto Easy
For the best actionable idea to properly integrate encryption into an existing product/system, educate users as to how to use encryption and/or build a community who use encryption by default.
For the best patch for a disclosed or as yet undisclosed vulnerability in a program/platform or software used by human rights defenders and activists.
UPDATE: This category didn’t get enough good submissions so the prize money for it has been incorporated into the Golden Jellybean award.
For the best actionable idea of how communication technologies can be used to promote and enable human rights.
UPDATE: This category has been split into two sub-categories - the Freedom of Expression Award and the Grassroots Technology Award.
Access Facebook Award
For the best actionable idea of how to use the Facebook platform to deliver a human rights, human development or social good outcome.
The finalists were selected by a panel of 13 judges including Alex Macgillivray, General Counsel at Twitter, John Lilly, Partner at Greylock and former Mozilla CEO, Elliot Schrage, VP of Communications at Facebook and many others listed here. Projects were evaluated based on the likelihood that they could actually come to fruition and be scalable/sustainable as well as how many people would they affect? Projects were also evaluated based on how impactful they could be and how innovative the idea is.
The list of finalists includes 22 interesting ideas. Some of the ideas are sort of “cloak-and-dagger” like Reticle, a disposable computer that cannot be traced. I am thinking “This message will self-destruct in 5-seconds”. The Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation is working on something called FlashProxy, which enables Facebook users to contribute their internet connection to support users trapped behind a firewall by creating a secure channel for them. The Electronic Frontier Foundation submitted browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox that force sites to use https when communicating with their visitors, a simple but effective way of protecting your personal information, especially when surfing on public networks. To me the most interesting projects are the ones in the Blackout Resilience category like Brian, Project Byzantium and RePress. Each of these projects is trying to build ways to circumvent blocking technology and enable users to connect and communicate with each other when governments try to shut down the Internet.
Am looking forward to finding out who the winners are and, more importantly, to see how these technologies evolve in the near future.
The awards ceremony for the Innovation Prizes is TONIGHT, December 10, 2012 in New York City. You can follow along on twitter at #techprize12 or just follow AccessNow at @accessnow.
By Ian Rosoff
Google has about $42.72 Billion dollars in cash and short-term investments. Apple has about $100 billion in cash and Microsoft about 66 Billion. The question continues to be what will these tech giants use their stockpiles for? Google has quietly invested about 1Billion in the alternative energy sector. They are directly invested in a wind farm in Iowa. A similar deal is pending in Oklahoma. These projects are highly calculated and are built in tandem with huge data centers. The agreement in Oklahoma is a twenty-year deal. Google is looking long term and has already set in motion plans to make all of its campuses and data centers carbon neutral.
These deals are more than just attempts to be good corporate and global citizens; Google is making a foray into an entirely new and unrelated business. It is funding solar projects to the tune of $94 million dollars for four new plants in California. It is partnering with investment firms like KKR and energy companies across the country. There may come a time in the near future when Google is the country’s largest alternative energy company. Will companies like Apple follow suit and create large new venture capital arms to their business model? Well…Apple is already potentially branching out into the world of renewable energy. Its data centers are also going green.
These policies make sense for a few reasons. Firstly, Google is receiving tax credits reducing about 30% of the cost of these investments. Secondly, data centers are incredible energy black holes and getting energy costs down is crucial as described in detail in this report from the New York Times. Finally it’s great PR. Google is going to profit big time from these moves.
Tech giants are perfectly positioned to be game changers in the renewable energy game. They have the funds necessary to really make wind or solar competitive and the technical talent to pull it off. I thought the energy race would take another few decades to truly heat up and I believed traditional energy companies as well as myriad of successful alternative energy startups would be leading the way, but I’m betting Google, Apple, and Microsoft will have something big to say about the future of energy.
By Ian Rosoff
President Obama was a start up candidate; he had a great original pitch at the 2004 democratic national convention, and from there he quickly gained momentum toppling the Clinton candidacy and shutting down popular Senator John McCain to become the first African American President in history. The President’s victory in 2008 and again on Tuesday is partly due to the superior quality of his ground game and his ability to harness technology to strengthen his campaign and volunteer efforts.
As someone who knows firsthand the power of technology in our post-industrial economy, we can continue to expect aspects of his 2nd term agenda to focus on the role technology plays in creating jobs, fostering energy security, and ensuring that America stays on the cutting edge of innovation.
The startup community can hope for a few things in particular:
The biggest specific policy initiative is the Startup 2.0 Act, which would increase the work visa availability for foreign science, tech, engineering, and math grads from American universities, as well as increase entrepreneurship visas for foreigners. Tech Crunch believes this reform is in the pipeline for next year.
Todd Park, the Chief Technology Officer, a position created in Obama’s first term, has been rolling out the President’s open government policy, which is designed to help businesses that need or use government data. The Health Data Consortium is using the open government data to help draw crime maps and create apps like WeMakeItSafer.
The government will also play a role in regulatory matters regarding technology and the Internet. Two bills, SOPA and PIPA were already heavily contested in the president’s first term, and issues about copyright and Privacy on the Internet are, depending on how Congress addresses these issues again, possibly the defining tech issue of Obama’s second term. Regulation of the online marketplace is still in its infancy, and it is apparent that government has a lot of catching up to do on developing a strategy that balances the interests of startups and tech companies as well as established media corporations.
Another controversial government project is the government’s early stage innovation fund. The government has had its share of failures investing in individual companies, with the Solyndra scandal being the most notable. But the government has some successes as well, like the veterans start up incubator to help vets start new high growth businesses, or a company like Cabulous who credits the capital gains exclusion in president Obama’s 2011 budget for their growth. The innovation fund is also committed to investing in clean energy companies.
Green jobs are likely going to be an important part of this administration’s innovation agenda, but the administration should not be myopic in only looking to invest in green tech or the most cutting edge tech coming out of Silicon Valley. The innovation fund will focus on infusing capital into less conventional startup areas so small businesses from outside places like California will get more exposure.
The Startup America partnership, which we are big fans of, is another avenue for funding and mentorship for startups. We are actually pitching today at the Reboot America summit, where former and first White House CTO Aneesh Chopra will be speaking. He talked about the goals of Startup America last year in an article he wrote while serving as Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Access to capital and mentorship for high growth startups are key aspects of the initiative and Startup America has partnerships with the NYSE and the Case Foundations as well as other influential institutions to help foster entrepreneurship education.
It’s an exciting time for Startups and many college graduates who feel the traditional corporate path is not for them are taking their talents to startups. New programs at top universities are being created to cater to the startup culture and prepare students to start their own companies out of college.
The President’s commitment to encouraging startups and expediting the growth process for new businesses in the tech industry could be critical to his economic legacy.
Polltracker - Poll junkies can keep track of all the polls they can humanly swallow with this one, via TalkingPointsMemo [iOS]
SuperPACApp - Similar to Adhawk, but provides additional information regarding the claims that an ad is making [iOS]
FactCheck.org mobile - Not a real app, but a slick, mobile friendly interface that allows you to check facts regarding the Presidential elections
Know any more good ones? Let us know @votifi and we’ll add to the list
Some cool/creepy tech that’s helping to get out the vote today, via TechCrunch:
- The Romney Campaign’s Digital Brain: Project Orca
- Organizer, a volunteer and canvasser logistics startup, brings UPS-like logistics to neighborhood get-out-the-vote workers, overlaying a walking path most likely to reach the important fence-sitting voters over a smartphone map.
- Vote With Friends allows users to catagorize their friends into blocs of likely voters and message them with reminders to vote
- Poll-Watcher, which monitors which Democrats stroll into the voting booth and then relays the information back to callers and canvassers, so that limited get-out-the-vote resources can be targeted to those who haven’t voted yet.
We will be pitching at the Reboot America Summit in Washington DC on November 8/9 along with other cool startups like POPVox, Ruck.US, ElectNext and NewsIT.
The agenda looks fantastic. Steve Case (AOL CEO) is keynoting along with tons of other great speakers from Microsoft, OPower, Troopswap, Personal and the White House.