Governors, Top Business and Education Leaders Urge Congress to Support K-12 Computer Science Education

Leadership-Letter.jpgThe urgent need to expand access to computer science education for American students is now on Congress's radar!

Earlier this week, a group of leading educators, organizations, CEOs, and 27 Democratic and Republican governors sent an open letter to Congress and the American people calling for federal funding to provide every student in every school the opportunity to learn computer science.

The development received wide press coverage, including:

You can add your voice to this effort by writing Congress now

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VFI Leaders Voice Support for K-12 Computer Science Education

Support is growing for Congress to provide funding for computer science education in America's K-12 schools.

CSEC-logo-with-name.jpgLast month, the Computer Science Education Coalition launched to urge Washington to take action. The coalition includes large and small technology companies, education organizations, professional associations, and trade groups. Many leaders of Voices for Innovation are participating in the coalition -- and they are speaking up and sharing their views.

Just in the past week, two VFI leaders saw their commentaries on this issue published in their state's leading newspapers. Corinne Johnson, executive vice president of ClearPointe, in Little Rock, Arkansas, calls on state business, community, and education leaders to support the push for computer science education funding. 

"Given the central importance of computing to our nation's economy and way of life, it is distressing that only one in four U.S. schools teaches any computer-science courses. We must do better," writes Johnson in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

computer-science-education-583693_640.jpgWriting in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, James Keefner, a systems and security architect at CloudFactors, in Joplin, Missouri, calls funding K-12 computer science education, "a national imperative."

"Countries like China are already taking steps to make sure their kids have access to computer science education from an early age. It’s essential that America’s kids have the same opportunities so that they don’t fall behind," writes Keefner.

You're encouraged to read both pieces in their entirety:

Corinne Johnson, "Fill the Skills Gap; Computer Science Education Vital," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

James Keefner, "K-12 Computer Science Education: It’s a National Economic Imperative," St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

A big thank you to Corinne and James for helping getting the word out about this critical issue! 

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Brittenford Systems Voices Support for LEADS Act

Brittenford-Systems.pngBrittenford Systems, a financial systems consulting firm, recently posted a great blog about the need for our nation to update its digital privacy laws. Here are some key excerpts:

How much has technology changed since 1986? A lot. How much has the major law protecting the privacy of users participating in electronic communication changed? Negligibly. Currently, personal and business protections from government intrusion into stored data relies on an outdated bill passed well before the advent of the full scale internet, during the waning years of the Cold War.

[T]he law as it stands inadequately protects businesses and consumers in modern times from intrusion into personal data stored in servers abroad. But there is a way to improve data privacy. the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad (LEADS) Act.

The growing threat of privacy and confidentiality intrusions is eroding trust in technology. Without user trust, innovation and its benefits are undermined. As troubling, people are losing confidence that our nation is upholding the commitment to privacy enshrined in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act—the LEADS Act—will help restore trust in tech by ensuring that digital communications and data receive the same privacy protections as paper letters and documents.

We strongly encourage you to read the entire post, "LEADS Act: Fighting for Email and Cloud Computing Privacy" on the Brittenford Systems website. Our thanks to Brittenford CTO and Voices for Innovation leader Ryan Risley for his help in educating others about this critical issue. You can also learn more and take action at VFI's LEADS Action Center.

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Computer Science Education Coalition Launches

CSEC-logo-with-name.jpgToday, a broad-based group of businesses and non-profits launched the Computer Science Education Coalition to urge Congress to invest $250 million in K-12 computer science education. The coalition's members include Amazon, Code.org, Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Microsoft, TechNet, and many others.  Many of our Voices for Innovation leaders also joined the coalition.

VFI plans to support the coalition's efforts and will encourage our members to take an active role in communicating the importance of improving computer science education in America's schools and workforce programs.

You can learn more by visiting the Computer Science Education Coalition website. Stay tuned for opportunities to support this effort.

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Congress Examines Cloud Computing Privacy Challenges

VFI Leader Ryan Risley Recaps Key Tech Policy Hearing on Capitol Hill

20160225_100059_resized-Ryan-Rayburn.jpgAs the CTO of technology consulting firm Brittenford Systems, I spend a lot of time helping our diverse range of mid-market clients understand how technology can drive operational improvements and growth. Our clients put their trust in us and the solutions we implement, and today, of course, the best options for ERP, BI, and other functions live in the cloud.

But when it comes to business confidentiality and privacy, there are clouds over the cloud, so to speak. The main U.S. law governing digital privacy protections and access to data—the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)—was adopted in 1986, before the advent of the full-scale Internet. The legal framework for cloud computing is outdated—in the U.S. and around the world. This is especially true given the international nature of cloud computing, with data often moving across borders.

The legal uncertainty surrounding cloud computing is a concern to my company and many of our clients—and that’s why I’ve been involved with advocating for passage of the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act—or the LEADS Act. Last October, I joined other members of Voices for Innovation (VFI) to visit Capitol Hill and meet with legislators and their staff to voice our support for the LEADS Act.

Will Congress Take Action?

While about 150 members of Congress have co-sponsored the LEADS Act, the legislation hasn't moved in the U.S. House or Senate. I was starting to wonder if Congress truly understood how important this issue is, not just to the tech sector, but to the global business community and to individuals.

Finally, however, the House Judiciary Committee announced that it would hold a hearing on the issue of international legal conflicts concerning cloud data. I could’ve watched the live stream of the hearing, but since I work in northern Virginia, I cleared my schedule and made the trip to Capitol Hill to attend in person.

The hearing I witnessed included two panels. In the first panel, Judiciary Committee members grilled David Bitkower, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General from the U.S. Department of Justice, on the DOJ’s attempt to use search warrants to access data stored in other nations.

P1010266(Brad_Smith_Swearing_In)(smaller).jpgIn the second panel, several witnesses, including Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith, highlighted the problems technology companies and users face because of our nation’s outdated digital privacy laws. (You can read Brad Smith’s recap of the hearing at this link.)

The main positive takeaway from the hearing is that Congress—or at least many members of the House Judiciary Committee—recognizes that there is a problem that needs attention. This is a critical step. But it remains to be seen if Congress will make addressing this issue a priority this year. I hope that momentum from this hearing will advance the LEADS Act or some other legislative solution.

The best way to convince Congress to act is to let them know that you’re watching and want legal reform that both protects privacy and improves cross-border law enforcement cooperation. If you haven’t emailed Congress on this issue yet (or recently!), I encourage you to do so now by visiting VFI’s LEADS Action Center.

***

About the Author

Ryan Risley is the CTO of Brittenford Systems, a financial systems consulting firm. He leads Brittenford’s CIO Advisory Practice, which partners with CEOs and CFOs in client companies to help IT divisions innovate and align with and achieve business objectives. Ryan is past president of the Washington D.C. chapter and on the U.S. Board of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), focused on advocacy.

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Congress Must Update Our Outdated Privacy Laws

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith Recaps House Judiciary Committee Testimony

Today I appeared as a witness before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Hearing on “International Conflicts of Law and their Implications for Cross Border Data Requests by Law Enforcement.

You can see my opening statement to the Committee below, and read my written testimony on the Judiciary Committee website.

In my testimony I made the case that the increasing use by governments of unilateral legal process – rather than international process – to obtain digital data is creating real problems and these problems are quickly getting worse.

While we talked at length with the committee about the problems, we also talked about concrete steps that can move us forward. These include modernization of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties and creating new international legal frameworks that are built for the 21st century.

But at the heart of this discussion is the need for Congress to update outdated privacy laws.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) is one of the critical laws governing digital privacy. As I pointed out, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed that bill by voice vote on June 23, 1986, Ronald Reagan was president, Tip O’Neill was Speaker of the House, and Mark Zuckerberg was 2 years old. Obviously technology has come a long way in the last 30 years. To illustrate that point, I showed the committee a 1986 IBM PC that represented the state of the art in technology when ECPA was passed, and contrasted that with the capability of a modern device like the Microsoft Surface Pro.

House-Judiciary-Committee-Photo-Brad-Smith.jpeg 

It’s clear that a law written 30 years ago wasn’t designed for the technology of today and undermines both privacy and public safety. Technology has moved forward. Now the law needs to catch up.

About the Author 

Brad Smith is Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. Smith plays a key role in representing the company externally and in leading the company’s work on a number of critical issues including privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability and digital inclusion, among others.

This cross-posted blog originally appeared on Microsoft on the Issues on February 25, 2016.

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Video: The Importance of the LEADS Act to Small Businesses

VFI Leader Naomi Moneypenny Discusses the Need to Update U.S. Digital Privacy Protections

In a recent video, Voices for Innovation community leader Naomi Moneypenny discusses how her small technology company, ManyWorlds, can serve enterprise customers around the world because of cloud computing.

But the benefits of the cloud are now under threat because of outdated policies governing data privacy and access. As Naomi notes, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was adopted in 1986, in essentially pre-Internet days. These laws do not address cross-border data sharing and storage; and they do not reflect today’s digital world—where even small businesses work with customers, partners, and vendors around the globe.

Naomi encourages viewers to support the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (the “LEADS Act”), which will update U.S. law to protect privacy and make law enforcement more effective in today’s digital world. Participating in Voices for Innovation makes it easy for you to learn about the LEADS Act, as well as other tech policy issues, and reach members of Congress to share your views.

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Naomi Moneypenny is the CTO of ManyWorlds, a developer of “learning layer” software that enhances collaborative enterprise platforms using patented machine learning and behavioral inferencing technologies. She holds more than 40 patents, speaks frequently at global tech events, and is a Microsoft MVP.

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A Nurse Goes to Washington... on VFI Policy and Advocacy Trip

StephanieCracknell-IMG_8034.jpg

Voices for Innovation (VFI) member Stephanie Cracknell is a nurse, a tech entrepreneur, a policy advocate, and now... a blogger. Stephanie just wrote a terrific piece—"A Nurse Goes to Washington"—for the Microsoft in Health website that details her experiences on VFI's Policy and Advocacy Trip to Washington, DC, last fall.

Stephanie writes that she stepped out of her "comfort zone as a nurse practitioner," but the trip gave her a chance to learn "about the inner workings of our nation’s legislative system and how healthcare practitioners can effect change for the better." Stephanie goes on to discuss her activities in Washington, including how she advocated for legislation—the LEADS Act—to help build greater trust in cloud technologies.

We were grateful to have Stephanie on our trip. She brought a unique perspective to our advocacy efforts, focusing on how cloud trust is critical to improve health IT and ultimately healthcare outcomes. Thanks too to Stephanie for bringing VFI's message to the wider health IT community through her blog. Please read the full piece at this link and share with others. 

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We Need to Give Everyone a Chance with Tech

VFI Leader Nikkia Carter Has a Passion for Bringing Tech Opportunities to All

2013-06-06_18.50.29-NikkiaCarter.jpgHere’s a plain, simple fact: technology got me out of poverty and into the middle class. Millions of Americans should have this opportunity, but our nation isn’t doing enough. I got involved with Voices for Innovation for many reasons—but especially to push for tech policies that open educational and career opportunities for all.

I was lucky. When I was a kid, my Dad scraped together enough money to buy a Tandy computer. It came with a book about BASIC, and I taught myself to code. I also got the chance to attend Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (BPI), a great public high school that offered me a chance to learn a lot more about computers.

After that, I had the confidence to pursue a BS in Computer Science and a Master’s in IT Project Management. Today, I run my own small IT consulting business—Carter-McGown Services—with a focus on Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365. I am certain that many Americans can follow in my footsteps if we put in place better education and workforce policies.

 

A Chance to Learn Where You Excel

When I was a kid, I was a tomboy with an interest in technology. My family and educators were supportive. I didn’t get tracked away from computers.

Unfortunately, too many young people—especially women and minorities—don’t get exposed to Computer Science or encouraged to pursue this field. This is true for the majority of American students, but especially true for minorities and women. Less than 1% of all Advanced Placement tests administered in the U.S. are taken in Computer Science. Only 15% of the test takers are women, and only 8% are African American or Hispanic. We can do a lot better.

I truly believe that there are millions of people who can pursue successful careers in technology—but they don’t know anything about the field or that they can succeed. We need to give not only students but working people the chance to learn that they can excel in technology. People who once worked in manufacturing should have the opportunity to retrain and learn advanced computer skills.

Teaching and Advocating

HopeProject3-Nikkia.pngThough I spend most of my workdays serving my customers and building my business, I also commit time to advocating for better tech policies and helping others advance in technology. I serve as a trainer for two organizations—H.O.P.E. Project DC and Year Up National Capital Region—which enables me to bring my knowledge and enthusiasm right to young people.

I’ve also been active for a few years with the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) and IAMCP Women in Technology (WIT). I currently serve as the Philanthropy Chair for the DC Chapter of the IAMCP and as the IAMCP DC WIT Community Lead.

I learned about Voices for Innovation first from seeing the organization’s tweets on issues that mattered to me—especially STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education. After meeting with VFI organizers and members at the 2014 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), I got really involved. VFI helps keep me informed about tech policies and be a better advocate about issues I care about. In 2015, as part of a VFI trip, I had a chance to share my views on Capitol Hill.

Unfortunately, many government leaders do not understand the world of technology or small business. Yet government has the ability to steer education, workforce training, and economic development. We need more of our community to share our ideas and concerns with elected officials so that they can do better.

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Nikkia Carter is the CEO of Carter-McGowan Services, a Microsoft Silver Small and Midmarket Partner and SMB Champion, specializing in business technology consulting, development, migration/setup, support/managed services, and training. A CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer and a Microsoft Certified Professional, Nikkia has been a featured speaker at several conferences and events, including Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), IT ProCamp, Office 365 Ramp-Up Day, SP24, and others.

 

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It Turns Out, I Have a Voice

VFI Member David Gersten Reflects on His Visit to Our Nation’s CapitalGersten-D_2-Ext_05a.jpg

I admit, I was nervous—super nervous—on the afternoon of October 28, 2015.

I was standing, literally, in the halls of the power—just outside the office of U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47). I was about to meet my Congressman to advocate for much-needed legal reform that would protect the digital privacy of consumers and businesses. Digital privacy protection is important to my company’s customers—and it’s important to me as a U.S. citizen and a technology professional.

Even though I know that digital privacy is a huge issue—it’s in the news virtually every day—I’m not a lawyer or a policy expert. To be sure, I’ve worked in the tech sector for more than 20 years, and I know firsthand that technology users are concerned about privacy and security in the cloud. But still, I asked myself, should I really be in Washington to help shape U.S. law?

How Did I Get Here?

As someone who has worked in enterprise technology for a long time, I’ve seen technology transform businesses time and again. It’s incredibly gratifying to see customers accelerate their growth by investing in innovation. It’s also exciting to see wave after wave of new innovations come to the marketplace.

I’m a people person. I not only interface with customers, but I’ve become the representative of my employer—Bond Consulting Services (BCS)—to local business organizations and with Microsoft. I’ve also been active with the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) and currently serve as the Southern California Chapter President and the West Regional Chairperson on the U.S. Board of Directors.

As part of my industry engagement and participation in IAMCP, I also became active in Voices for Innovation (VFI). I learned about tech policy issues, joined webinars, and responded to calls to action. Because I’m an active participant and engaged with my local tech community, VFI invited me to attend its inaugural Policy and Advocacy Trip to Washington, DC. BCS graciously supported and co-sponsored my trip.

And so, here I was in the halls of Congress. I’d set up the appointment with my U.S. Rep, and I’d just gone through some great training sessions at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center. But now, I was about to be in the hot seat. Could I do it? And would Representative Lowenthal really listen and consider my views?

David_Veronica-RepLowenthalOffice-cropped.jpgMeeting My Congressman

Though I was nervous, I wasn’t alone. I was joined by my fellow Southern California IAMCP member Veronica Place. Veronica was a calming presence. In we went. First we met Legislative Assistant Annie Nguyen, and then she ushered us into the inner sanctum of Congressman Lowenthal’s office.

Congressman Lowenthal was immediately welcoming and wanted to hear what we had to say. Veronica and I discussed the importance of digital privacy and asked him to co-sponsor the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS Act). We explained that consumers, businesses, and tech innovation would benefit from the LEADS Act, which would update our nation’s digital privacy laws to give email and other communications the same privacy protections as paper records.

I was surprised to hear the Congressman say that he hadn’t heard about the LEADS Act until I had requested a meeting a couple of weeks back. My initial email had already made a difference—it had raised awareness. It might seem odd that the Congressman didn’t know about the bill, but the LEADS Act is House bill number 1174. By the time of our meeting, more than 3,800 bills had been introduced in the House during the current session. Sometimes it falls to everyday citizens (like me!) to bring attention to proposed legislation.

Congressman Lowenthal’s initial reaction to our request was positive, though he did not commit to becoming a co-sponsor of the LEADS Act. He seemed to value my expertise as a technology professional and as a small business leader. He said that he would consider the issue further and get back to us in the next 24-48 hours to let us know his decision.

As we were wrapping up our meeting, Rep. Lowenthal took a moment to chat about my neighborhood and even discuss a new restaurant. He went out of his way to show that he is part of my community in Long Beach, California. He also pointed out that we were in Washington during an exciting week, which included the election of new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

A Transformative Experience

The next day, about 24 hours after our meeting, Veronica and I received an email from Annie Nguyen stating that Rep. Lowenthal would co-sponsor the LEADS Act. She added, “Thank you guys for advocating for the issues you care about and for sharing with us.” Wow!

It took a moment for this email to sink in. I really had made a difference. My voice was heard, and I advanced an important—even a historical—piece of legislation. In a small way, I was making U.S. history. I’m a Dad, with two children ages 9 and 11, and I thought I’m helping make a better world for them. It felt great.

I have new confidence about my expertise and ability to effect change. I’m now planning to brief others in my professional network about the LEADS Act, and how we need to speak up about technology policies. It’s amazing to be able to make a difference.

***

David Gersten is the Vice President of Customer Success & Strategic Relationships at Bond Consulting Services (BCS). BCS is a Microsoft Gold Competent ERP Partner and trusted business consulting practice focused on Microsoft Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, and Dynamics CRM.

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