Tag Archives: technology

Microsoft Invests in STEM for Young Black Girls

Kimberly Bryant

Microsoft, the world’s biggest maker of computer software, announced a partnership with Black Girls Code and the Technology Access Foundation to bring STEM education to students of color. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the $500,000 partnership.  (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.)

Black Girls Code provides programming and technology education to young and pre-teen girls of color. The curriculum is provided through clubs  and taught by women engineers of color. BGC can be found in 13 cities across the U.S. and, with the funding from Microsoft, will launch their 14th chapter in Seattle.

Founder of Black Girls Code, Kimberly Bryant, explains her mission;  “By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”

Trish Millines Dziko

  Technology Access Foundation provides STEMbyTAF. Former Microsoft executive Trish Millines Dziko founded STEMbyTAF in 1997. The program is an out-of-school program that teaches technology skills, provides internships and college prep to students of color in the Seattle area.

Since its launch TAF has opened its own school and become a model for creating learning environments that erase racial disparity in academic achievement. STEMbyTAF is focused on duplicating their successful formula in other schools. TAF has partnerships with Amazon, Comcast, Expedia, Google and Boeing.

Black Girls Code also has partnerships with several of Silicon Valley’s top technology companies including Google, Oracle, Adobe, Verizon and AT&T.

 

Racism Online: Social Media Companies Target Ads to Racists

The web’s biggest social media companies have been targeting ads to racists. Facebook, Google and Twitter have allowed advertisers to target groups expressing interests in topics such as “Jew hater,” How to burn jews” and “why jews ruin the world.” Facebook’s advertising algorithm went even further by suggesting other racist and hate interests to advertisers including search terms like “Hitler did nothing wrong.”  After being notified by ProPublica Facebook removed the antisemitic categories.

But that did not solve the problem entirely. Online magazine Slate used Facebook’s ad targeting to create ads targeting those interested in “Ku-Klux-Klan,” and other white nationalist interests.

ProPublica first attempted to purchase three ads, or “promoted posts,” using Facebook’s targeting tool. At first they were rejected. But not for the reason you might think. The ad placement was rejected because the number of Facebook users searching the racist terms was beneath a pre-programmed number of users. ProPublica then added a larger category to “Jew hater” and the others. Facebook’s ad tool then said the selected audience was “great!” Fifteen minutes later the company’s ad system had approved all three ads.

Facebook is not alone. BuzzFeed discovered Google, the world’s largest advertising platform,  also had problems in its ad targeting. Google’s ad targeting allowed advertisers to target people searching phrases such as “black people ruin everything” and “jews control the media.”

Like Facebook, Google’s algorithm auto-suggested similar phrases, such as “the evil jew.” To confirm their findings BuzzFeed ran the ads and verified the ads did indeed appear on the web.

After BuzzFeed’s report Google disabled the keyword searches used in the ad buy. However, according to BuzzFeed,  the search term “blacks destroy everything,” remained.

Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s senior vice president of advertising, in an email.”We’ve already turned off these suggestions and any ads that made it through, and will work harder to stop this from happening again.” 

Twitter too was found to have algorithms that played into racism. According to the Daily Beast  Twitter allowed the targeting of ads to racist. Twitter’s algorithm allowed advertisers to target millions of customers searching terms like “wetback” and “nigger.” The Daily Beast was also able to successfully placed the ads online.  And, like Facebook and Google, Twitter generated suggestions in response to racist terms.

According to Twitter  it fixed its algorithm that permitted marketers to target racist.
The Daily Beast reported that Twitter Ads returned 26.3 million users who may respond to the term “wetback,” 18.6 million to “Nazi,” and 14.5 million to “nigger.”

Facebook appears to be dealing with a recurring problem. That is racist ad targeting. In 2016  AACR reported that advertisers were using the social media platform ad targeting to exclude people of color from seeing ads for housing and other services. Facebook uses the term “affinity marketing” but it is also known as “red lining.” This is the practice of denying certain groups access to homes, jobs and other service based on race.

Are these companies undercover racists or is something else happening here? Technology is supposed to be color blind but these issues keep popping up, especially for Facebook.

According to Facebook, algorithms select categories based on what users list as employment or education. People have used terms such as “Jew Hater,” as their jobs and listed employers as  “Jew Killing Weekly Magazine.”  Or as education they list “Threesome Rape.”  As a result Facebook’s algorithm, which is not designed to understand the meaning of these terms, create target market categories.

Some experts believe that many algorithms that are programmed to make decisions are programmed on data sets that do not include a diverse range of people.

Graphic designer Johanna Burai created the World White Web project after she searched for an image of human hands. Her search on Google resulted in images of millions of hands almost exclusively white.

Google responded by saying its image search results are “a reflection of content from across the web, including the frequency with which types of images appear and the way they’re described online” and are not connected to its “values”.

Joy Buolamwini, a postgraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched The Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) in November 2016.
Buolamwini, a dark skin African-American, was attempting to use facial recognition software for a project but the program could not process her face.

“I found that wearing a white mask, because I have very dark skin, made it easier for the system to work. It was the reduction of a face to a model that a computer could more easily read.”
It was not the first time Buolamwini experienced the problem. Once before she had to ask a lighter-skinned room-mate to help her.

“I had mixed feelings. I was frustrated because this was a problem I’d seen five years earlier was still persisting,” she said. “And I was amused that the white mask worked so well.”

But is technology and these algorithms really racist? Maybe not so much as some would have us to believe. Algorithms are programs and programs are created by people who program computers. So it is not unthinkable that racism and biases creep into programs.

 

 

 

 

Intel Drops $4.5 M on HBCUs to Increase Retention in STEM College Majors and Careers

Written by Robin White Goode for BlackEnterprise.com, June 27th, 2017

 

Intel Corporation announced the Intel HBCU Grant Program, a three-year, $4.5 million initiative, to help retain students in STEM pathways at six historically black colleges: Florida A&M University, Morgan State University, Howard University, Prairie View A&M University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Tuskegee University.

“The key goal of the program is retention, in college as well as in STEM careers,” Barbara Whye told me, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and vice president of Human Resources. “We’re working to increase retention rates in partnership with the universities.”

This is not an easy goal. The New York Times has previously reported that black people make up 1% of the tech workforce at Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twittermaking this demographic the least represented of all underrepresented groups.

Intel’s Commitment to Diversity

In January 2015, Intel announced its goal to reach full representation in 2020, across all categories, from entry level positions, to the senior vice president, as well as among the Intel Fellows—which is the highest technical role at the company—Whye says. “Full representation” is determined by what’s available in the employee “market.” For example, if 25% of those with engineering degrees are women, Intel’s goal is to employ 25% or higher women engineers by 2020.

Intel is one of 80 companies that agreed to a White House pledge last year to increase diversity; of those companies, it’s been reported that only seven have released data about their progress, of which, Intel is one.

“We are serious about this commitment,” Whye says. “We’re one of the few still monitoring and reporting transparently about our progress. We’ve committed $300 million to invest in diversity and inclusion in our Intel workforce.”

The Intel HBCU Grant Program

The Intel HBCU Grant Program may hold promise in supporting the company’s achievement of its goals. The six HBCUs were chosen because they grant degrees relevant to Intel—in computer science, electrical engineering, and computer engineering.“These degrees fit within our relevant space. About 80,000 workers at Intel have engineering degrees,” Whye says, who also has a B.S. in electrical engineering.

She also explained that the program was developed with input from the schools themselves.“We spent nine months on the ground with the university presidents, in conversation. A lot of times, companies design programs for universities instead of having conversations with those universities, but we talked through its development.”

Another great aspect of the program is that it’s based on what research has shown to contribute to student success. Whye explained that, in order to increase retention for STEM students, key success factors are access, awareness, opportunity, role models, hands-on research, a quality curriculum, and knowing how this work makes a difference. “The program is designed around these key success factors,” Whye says.

The three-year program will also bring professors from the six campuses to Intel, so they can engage in annual workshops, and take back what they learn to their schools.

Internships and two-year scholarships are integral to the program. Black employees at Intel will also have the option of getting involved, by “adopting” one of the six schools or mentoring a student.

For more information about the Intel HBCU Grant Program, visit this website.

Celebrity Cyber Report – Ludacris

Ludachris


Rapper Ludacris
is introducing a new mobile word game that recognizes slang.

The Grammy-winning rapper hooked up with Edwin Benton to drop  Slang N’ Friendz. The phone based game “gives players of all ages the chance to communicate using their favorite words by incorporating a dictionary database of slang words compiled from across the globe.”

Slang N’ Friendz recognizes words that are commonly thought of as slang. The free game is meant to encourage players to use both traditional as well as more hip words. The game is meant to remain up to date with both cultural and traditional language changes because there are nearly no rules and players can customize and even add new words to the game’s database.

Benton, the CEO and founder of Slang N’ Friendz said of the game, “Our goal is to provide users with a fun, compelling and un-intimidating word game where they can be themselves, learn and represent where they come from. Our purpose is to connect people across the world and allow users to engage with someone they wouldn’t normally meet. Slang is universal and could be the driving factor that brings us together and one day, possibly change the world.”

Getting the game is fairly simple just download the free app and get connected to players all over the globe. Players can choose to play against anybody with the app, a friend, or even on your own. Similar to Scrabble, Words with Friends, or other popular word games, you will be able to place your given letter tiles on a board to form a word. The difference with Slang N’ Friendz is what exactly is as a word?

“In a time when so much of the world is divided, technology has the opportunity to bring us together. Slang N’ Friendz encourages users to connect, be friendly and identify what they have in common through language,” Ludacris said. “It’s also a chance for different generations to learn about each other’s unique forms of communication and find ways to use language to bridge generation gaps.”

Ludacris, aka Christopher Bridges, is not new to the tech game. He first jumped in in September 2015 when he dropped the delivery app Roadie to get into the emerging peer-to-peer shipping market. Ludacris, like many black artists and athletes, understand that technology is the future and are aware of the huge benefits of investing in that sector. 

Being a savvy business man Ludacris has continued to invest in tech companies but won’t show his hand by telling his business. 

Slang N’ Friendz is available for  Apple and Android devices

Breaking It Down

This is a powerful idea that has great potential and I think Ludicris and Benton get it. We live in an age, especially in the United States, where cultural changes are often reflected in the language.  Learning and understanding this dynamic leads to less misunderstanding of not only words but intentions. Young people adapt to linguistic changes and quickly incorporate then into everyday conversation. Its called slang. But slang takes on a life of its own and becomes part of everyday speech. You feel me? Playing Slang N’ Friendz is buildng a bridge not just across generations, but cultures and even oceans. Some might feel I am pumping this game up but I’m just being real with you.

Black Women in Technology Doing Their Own Thing

Aniyia L. Williams, Founder, CEO of Tinsel

Women are different creatures. Their sense of beauty and aesthetics is keen. Because of this they are often caught at the collision of technology and style. The perfect outfit can be ruined by the functional style of technology. One black women has recognized that style and technology do not have to clash. Aniyia L. Williams is the founder and CEO of Tinsel. Williams creates technology enabled jewelry for women that blends the two. Tinsel products  are designed to ensure that women can enjoy technology with style.

Williams is an alumna of Code2040 a program who’s stated goal is to promote African-Americans and Latinos as true technology innovators and entrepreneurs by the year 2040. The leaders of this program believe that  “the nation as a whole will be stronger when the contributions of communities of color are sought out and included within the innovation economy. As result, in 2040, we envision a nation as a whole that is more equitable, innovative, and prosperous.”

Tinsel Dipper Ear Buds

Williams is a remarkable women who is proud of her multiple talents. Her personal website lists them as not only the founder of Tinsel but also marketer, musician, hair magician. techie, foodie and mother.

In addition to Tinsel Williams serves as Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) with her alma mater CODE2040, she works with Google for Entrepreneurs, and is a board member of the non-profit audio engineering group Women’s Audio Mission.

Aniyia Williams decided that style and function can work together with technology in the mix. Williams’ Tinsel design company is the product of a common dilemma that is headphones that lack feminine style and are a problem to keep track of and store.  There had to be an answer.

Tinsel Audio Necklace

Williams answer to the problem was to put great-sounding earbuds inside a fashionable necklace that kept them ready use, out of sight and still looking great with any outfit. A great idea but Williams had never started a business before nor created discreet, miniaturized audio equipment. This was her challenge.

Williams went to work on her dream even while hiding her pregnancy from her employees and investors. But that is another exciting story.

Williams startup was bare bones but her target goal was to get a prototype ready. She was dedicated to creating a quality product and studied audio engineering so her product would deliver quality sound while still looking great. Williams made maximum use of her connections  like her former boss at Vox CEO Tom Katis.

The results of one black women following her dream has resulted in a company that pioneers the converging region of style and technology. Williams worked with co-founder Monia Santinello to push Tinsel to the front as a fashion/tech brand.

Another remarkable fact of the Tinsel brand is that it is almost all women who have built it. “A man just doesn’t come from a place of knowing what happens when you wake up in the morning and decide to put on a piece of jewelry,” Williams said. “It’s not just about having the technical chops, it’s about deeply understanding the use case and the demographic.”

Tinsel’s first product named the Dipper launched an Indiegogo campaign  to generate much needed capital and to prove to potential investors that Williams had truly found a market worth backing. The campaign was a success bringing in more than $50,000 in pre-orders.

With this success Tinsel is now up and flying as a fashion/tech company. Check out the company website to see its products.

Now you know.

App of the Week – Register To Vote

register-to-voteThe presidential election is just over a month away. And the bottom line is that the black vote is more important than ever. So “GET YO BLACK ASS OUT AND VOTE!”

Registering to vote should be easy and simple in the world’s greatest democracy. But as black people we know that is not the case and its made that way deliberately. That is why Register To Vote is the App of the Week.

Register To Vote is intended to take some of the hassle out of this process by offering an app that scans your state ID, verifies your information and sends it to the relevant state to get you registered in a few seconds. Three simple steps.

The truth about voting is glaring and racist. As black people you are not wanted in the election process. And its a disgrace that so many of use play right along! America is the technological capital of the world and yet state after state simply refuses to use technology to register and verify voters. So far the registration process has only been simplified for voters in California, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arizona, Colorado and Massachusetts the few states with online voter registration.

get-yo

In other states blatant efforts have been made to exclude blacks and other minorities from voting. One North Carolina’s judge described the efforts of GOP legislators to limit black voting by saying, “Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist.”

Register to Vote is supported by Actor Samuel L. Jackson who is a staunch advocate of voting rights. 

Register to Vote has one flaw. It is only available for Apple. That means that it will certainly attract younger voters but older voters, those less likely to own an iPhone and less likely to vote, won’t get the app.

But that is no excuse for not voting! Consider how may black people died trying to secure the vote.

The United State Election Assistance Commission has a website that shows you where and how in your state to register to vote. You can also go to Vote.gov.

GET YO BLACK ASS OUT AND VOTE!

 

 

Buying vs. Leasing Technology Hardware

ID-100103472

Courtesy Dream Designs

Lease or buy technology hardware?  Black consumers need to ask themselves this question because, as I have said before, Black people don’t play when it comes to money. 

Consider your cellphone; cell phone carriers have long practiced the art of selling you a cellphone with their service without actually selling you a cell phone. You know the deal, sign a two year contract and get the cellphone for free or at a discount. Cellphones have never been cheap and the true price of the phones are buried in your wireless bill. Now cell carriers are dropping those two year contracts, slashing monthly fees and creating new programs for the actual cost of the phone.  The option of buying or leasing a phone has become serious money choice.

Consider this, cheaper phones means a cheaper bill every month. If you are sensitive to the steep price of some of the more advanced phones you can drop your monthly bill by selecting a cheaper phone. 

But lets face it; the best way to save big money is to keep your old phone. Think about it, do your really need the latest smartphone just because it’s the newest thing on the market? That is what the cellphone makers want you to think!

Once your current phone is paid for that cost comes off your bill putting $20-30 a month back in your pocket.  Before the death of two year contracts service providers didn’t lower your bill even if you didn’t upgrade to a newer device.

If you must have a new phone for whatever reason you can always buy a nice refurbished smartphone. They are often just a year or two old and much cheaper than brand new phones. Many of these phones are refurbished by the manufacturer and are hard to tell from new. Finding these phones is simple just search online.

You have to do the math and see where your best deal is. Sprint and other carriers are offering some interesting deals where you get to upgrade the phone every two years without actually buying it. Sprint comes right out and says you are leasing it.

At the end of the lease you have the option of turning in the old phone (just two years) and getting an upgrade and keep paying. Or you can pay off the balance on the phone and just pay for the monthly service. 

AT&T recently has changed its phone plans making it tough to own a phone. Where it once offered three plans AT&T now offers only two. The new plan, titled AT&T Next Every Year, offers an annual upgrade and lets you trade-in your current phone as long as you’ve paid 50 percent of its retail value. The other option, AT&T’s Next plan, offers a 30-month financing plan. With AT&T Next you trade-in your phone after two years as long as you’ve paid 80 percent of its value. You also have the option of 24, 18 or 12 month lease plans. But you need to check the fine print on these plans. Both plans require you to trade-in the financed device meaning there’s no option to simply pay one off and start fresh with a new device or just buying a service plan. You just keep paying. The cellphone industry is getting tricky so you need to seriously consider buying versus leasing your next phone.

Another area to consider lease versus buy is your home Internet connectivity. Ask yourself this question; how long have you been leasing you Internet router and cable modem? Probably years. Now do the math. How much would a new router and modem cost you that you own free and clear? As little as $99 each. The average person can save as much as $250 dollars a year depending on the combination of router and service you currently pay for.  Starting to get the picture?

Here are a few things to think about when considering leasing versus buying a router and modem. To start make sure the equipment you buy is compatible with your Internet providers networks. You can usually find that information on their website or give them a call. Also consider technical things like learning how to configure it for maximum performance and security. If you have multiple wireless devices in your home you must consider how your router will perform and that includes television and telephone service. Some routers have a limited number of devices it can service effectively. Finally, if you have trouble or a breakdown of equipment you are responsible for repair or replacement of the equipment. 

With a lease you won’t have these worries. You just call your provider and problem solved.

Now you know.

 

 

Technology’s Dirty Secrets Series- Mining Coltan

Congolese miners dig at a gold mine in Montgbawalu, Ituri district, eastern Congo, September 8, 2005. The Democratic Republic of Congo's government will renegotiate the existing gold exploration venture it has with AngloGold Ashanti, the world's number two gold producer, the head of Congo's state mining agency OKIMO said on Thursday. Picture taken September 8, 2005. REUTERS/Jiro Ose

Young miners digging coltan

Technology makes for a convenient life. Easy communications. Easy shopping. Easy at home and easy at work. We depend on technology for our new electric and hybrid cars, more efficient appliances and dependable access to information. Technology makes life easy…for most people.

The world we live in has hidden corners where others suffer for our easy life. They are exploited, poisoned then buried under mountains of technology trash. These people are resigned to accept it as the way life is. This is the dirt and blood that coats the billions of dollars made manufacturing, selling and disposing of technology. In this series the African-American Cyber Report will expose the dirty secrets of the technology industry starting with the mining of the raw materials.

Modern technology manufacturing begins with the extraction of certain raw materials from the earth. Cellphones and computers have inside them rare and hard to come by minerals and metals. These are often mined in African countries by people working in conditions and for wages that are simply inhuman.

The mineral coltan is found almost exclusively in Africa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Refining coltan creates a metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that can hold a high electrical charge. This electrical charge is crucial to the tiny circuit boards that power our iPhones, laptop computers, tablets and many other high-tech devices. The men who mine this rare and vital mineral dig using simple picks and shovels and sometimes their bare hands sometimes for 12 hours a day.  Workers often carry the heavy sacks of raw coltan out of the mine on their backs. Working conditions are abysmal and dangerous and there is no safety equipment or procedures.

Even though this mineral is vitally important to the technology industry wages are shockingly low for this crippling labor.  We may pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for our electronics.  Yet these miners toil under the hot sun daily earning just $5 a day for a 12-hour day. The minimum wage is $3 a day. Living in the horrific poverty of the Democratic Republic of the Congo these men have no choice but to endure these grueling and dangerous conditions. But it is not always men suffering in these conditions. Children as young as ten are employed in the mines and deaths are a regular occurrence.

Not only are people suffering for our technology products but the land is suffering as well. Mountains are often ripped apart to mine coltan leaving the land scarred and polluted. Rivers are often filled with silt from mine runoff  that sometimes contains mercury, cyanide and other dangerous chemicals. Large tracts of forests are wiped out in search of the minerals destroying wildlife habitats.

To compound the dangers and back breaking labor is the fact that these mines are often the prize among warring groups. The wealth created by the mines have fueled repeated wars not only among rebels and warlords but also with the government of the Congo for more than 20 years.

The National Congress for Defense of People or CNDP militia have used revenue from the sale of coltan to buy weapons and ammunition in their armed struggle against the army of the DRC. Thousands of innocent miners and civilians have been killed or driven from their homes as a result of these wars. As with all wars atrocities are frequent including rape, mutilations and the use of child soldiers.

A searing 2001 United Nations Report on the ‘Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources’, laid blame squarely on the sale of coltan and other precious minerals to multi-national corporations as the “engine of conflict in the DRC.”

Apple, Samsung and other electronics manufacturers admit they use coltan from these mines to make the smartphones we depend on everyday.  Without shame, these companies say they will will continue to do so.

In 2015 Apple reported to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission “that it is committed to driving economic development and creating opportunities to source conflict-free minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and adjoining countries.”’

The company went on to say that its suppliers must adhere to its code that; “every worker deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

In a statement Samsung said it “recognizes the seriousness of human rights violations and environmental pollution problems of mineral mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The U.S. Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act has led to a crack down in the use of so-called “conflict minerals.” The law requires western corporations to certify the origins of suspicious resources used in technology manufacturing such as coltan thus shutting off the cash financing warlords.

Apple, aware of the hardships suffered by those mining the mineral,  says it is dedicated to using only conflict free minerals in their products.

An Apple spokeswoman added: “The simplest path to calling Apple products conflict-free would be to redirect our demand through a small subset of smelters that are either conflict-free verified, or aren’t sourcing from Central Africa. But this approach would do little to influence the situation on the ground, something we care deeply about. That’s why we have been working to expand the number of verified sources in this region, so that more people can earn a good living, in better conditions.”

Samsung Electronics also supports the ban on conflict minerals saying,; “As a global manufacturer of consumer electronics, we understand the moral and ethical responsibility we have to our consumers and broader society. We remain committed to proactively participating in conversations and actions around the world to ban the use of conflict minerals and ensure responsibly source, conflict-free products.”

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

Re-Sell or Donate Your Old Technology

pile-o-cellphones-702573-870x400Christmas is done and as always many of us found a new techno-gadget under the tree. Its a great feeling to finally get your hands on a new laptop, tablet or smartphone. But keep in mind that that old phone or computer could put some money back in your pocket or a get you a nice tax write-off.

Re-selling technology is a big business. Thanks to the combined efforts of the technology industry and gadget hounds. Gadget hounds can’t wait for the next new gadget to hit the market. And the manufacturers are happy to oblige. They quickly trade in a smartphone or other device just to have the newest thing on the market. The result is that millions of devices end up for sale as re-furbished. Great devices, nearly new, at a greatly reduced price.

But a trade-in is not always the best option. You won’t always get the best deal for your old phone or laptop. The profit margin for re-selling refurbished devices is huge because the buyers keep the prices low for buying your stuff and high for selling it. Its a simple game that benefits the re-seller. But re-selling your old smartphone or computer can get you a few dollars and giving it to charity can get you a nice tax write-off and a good feeling inside.

Here are the best places to re-sell your old computer for top dollar.

gadget salvationGadget Salvation – Gadget Salvation is accredited with the Better Business Bureau and has an A rating from them. Users of ResellerRatings  give the company an average 8 out of 10 score and the site is rated 4 out of 5 stars based on the 55 reviews on Trustpilot. The company will provide you with a shipping label for your device and pay using PayPal. But the website has a couple of issues you need to be ready for. First is that it may be difficult to find the make and model of your device and you may find more than one listing creating some confusion. The second is that they have a strict standard for getting the best price for your device. When they say ‘like new” they mean it. Gadget Salvation warns sellers that only about 1 in 10 devices are considered to be in “flawless” condition. Most used laptops only qualify for “good.” But their prices are still above average compared to other companies.

macmeanofferMac Me An OfferRemember the old saying; “If it sounds to good to be true it probably is?”  Well the price difference between their MacBook offers and the other sites will have you thinking it’s a scam. But Mac Me An Offer has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

This website requires that you complete some forms and be a little more detailed about the cosmetic and working condition of your computer. Then you have to wait for a price quote that comes via email. Of course the site only deals in Apple products.

amazon-logoAmazon.com – Amazingly Amazon will accept a host of devices for trade-in. You can trade in old smartphones, tablets, cameras, laptops,video games, wearable devices, MP3 players, TVs, movies and CDs, other assorted electronics and even books and textbooks. Your trade-in will not get you cash but you can get an Amazon gift card.

PCWorld.com has a great list of electronics buy back programs

Donating to charity is another great way to dispose of old electronics. Many charities put the electronics to good use buy re-selling them for a profit. Many homeless shelters use old computer and laptops to help the homeless find jobs, fill out job applications online, and various other tasks.

Some women’s shelters provide cellphones and computers to abused women as well. Check in your local area for shelters that are taking donations. Also check out the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  Most of these donations are completely tax deductible and the charities will provide receipts for your donation’s value.

Another place to donate old electronics is the World Computer Exchange. These computers are used in schools in under-developed countries and private education programs. These too are normally tax deductible.

There is also Cellphones for Soldiers.  This  charity accepts used cellphones which are refurbished and sold. A portion of the profits is used to purchase prepaid calling minutes for soldiers deployed overseas so they may call families back home.

Most charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries accept electronic donations.

Check out the MoneyCrashers.com website for more charities accepting electronics donations.

Now you know.

 

 

Silicon Valley Cash? Not for Blacks and Women

courtesy: imagerymajestic

courtesy: imagerymajestic

Silicon Valley is a white male dominated world. Is America’s womb of technology struggling to find people of color to add to the mix or simply rejecting them?  There are probably plenty of answers to that question depending on who you ask. Some of the valley’s biggest and best known companies are at least trying to bring color to the white world of technology.

One of the companies trying to step up to the diversity challenge is Intel Corporation. In an effort to boost diversity in IT, Intel Capital has launched a $125 million investment program aimed at startups run by women and under-represented minorities. This in addition to a seperate investment program of $300 million announced last January with the stated goal of bringing more women and minorities into its workforce by 2020.

Intel has plans to change its capital investment program to make it more accessible for women and minorities. The world’s largest chip maker wants to be more open and responsive to funding requests from startups run by women and minorities. Intel has also established an advisory board of senior Intel employees to help make funding decisions.

Apple, the most successful company in history, is donating more than $50 million to organizations that intend to get more women, minorities, and veterans working in tech.

Apple’s chief of human resources, Denise Young Smith, granted an exclusive interview to Fortune magazine. In the interview Young Smith said that Apple is joining forces with non-profit organizations in a multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to increase the number of women, minorities, and veterans in the technology industry and at Apple.

“We wanted to create opportunities for minority candidates to get their first job at Apple,” said Young Smith. “There is a tremendous upside to that and we are dogged about the fact that we can’t innovate without being diverse and inclusive.”

Apple’s efforts include a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a non-profit supporting students enrolled in public, historically black colleges and universities or HBCUs. In total there are 100 HBCUs in the U.S of which 47 are considered public  graduating 20 percent of African-Americans who earn undergraduate degrees.

Diversity is a big issue with Apple CEO Tim Cook who see’s diversity as a vital ingredient to the future of the company. “I think the most diverse group will produce the best product, I firmly believe that.”

Other companies that are pumping money into diversity efforts include AOL which launched the $10 million BBG Fund. The fund will focus on women-led Internet startups. Cable giant Comcast venture fund, Comcast Ventures, launched the $20 million Catalyst fund in 2011 to invest in companies led by women and members of minority groups.

But there are some that believe that investing in minority owned start ups just because they are a minority is not the best approach. Some black entreprenuers are asking that investment be made in minority start ups because its good business.”The more people who think this is an obligation, a social obligation, that’s probably not a good thing,” said Hamet Watt, a venture partner at Upfront Ventures.

The problem is pretty basic and straightforward, white venture capitalists are not interested in female or minority led start ups. White men make up the overwhelming majority of venture capitalists. The National Venture Capital Association/Dow Jones VentureSource reported that 89 percent of VC Partners are men, specifically white men who made up 76 percent.  A study of all VC Partners showed that just 10 percent identified as Asian, 1 percent as African-American, and less than 1 percent as Latino.  In 2014 total VC capital investment reached $48 billion the highest total in over ten years. 

It is a sad fact that there is clear prejudice against companies founded or led by women and minorities. A  2010 study conducted by CB Insights  focused on the disparity of venture capital funding for companies founded by minorities and women as compared to companies founded by whites.

The results revealed that less than 1 percent of venture-capital-backed company founders were black and 12 percent were Asian, 83 percent had a racial composition that was completely white.

In the report preface CB Insights writes:

“When we ask venture capitalists what gets them excited about the young, emerging, and often unproven companies in which they invest, we never hear about deals and dollars. Rather, the first answer is frequently ‘the team’ or ‘the founders’. This demonstrates just how crucial human capital is in VC (venture capital) investment decision-making.”

To translate that statement it simply says race and gender makes a difference when it comes to who gets the money in Silicon Valley.

Of the $1.92 billion invested in March of 2014,

  • Companies led and made up of whites received 61 percent of the total investments, which equates to $1.41 billion.
  • Asian-led companies recieved a 17 percent share of investments at slightly more than $383 million.
  •  Latin American and Middle Eastern led companies took in $460 million, or 18 percent.
  • Mixed-race leadership teams received $96 million in investments, or 4 percent.
  • African-American led companies recieved the lowest share of investments. Only one black company recieved capital funding in the time period studied and that totaled a paltry $1.9 million. (Source: CB Insights)

Because of this glaring prejudice many black entreprenuers are faced with unfair pressure to back black owned start ups.

Charles Hudson, a partner at SoftTech VC, said he feels like he has to make himself accessible to African-American entrepreneurs.

“I also feel a certain pressure to try to help African-American entrepreneurs who I think are talented not work on terrible ideas,” Hudson said. “It’s not that they’re terrible ideas in general, it’s just that they’re not appropriate for venture. To me, that’s not unique to African-Americans.”

Hudson admitted to feeling “an enormous amount of pressure backing an African-American entrepreneur.”

“Pursuing an African-American business, for whatever reason if that investment doesn’t work, the buck stops with me,” Hudson said. “You realize that for whatever reason that investment’s failure is likely to be scrutinized to a greater degree than that SaaS company that didn’t work out. And I think about that. I wish I didn’t have to think about that.”

But the complexion of Silicon Valley is changing make no mistake about that. More and more black athletes like Floyd Mayweather and hip-hop artists are bringing their money into the technology start up game. Black athletes are also taking seats on the board of major technology companies. Most recently Magic Johnson took a seat on the board of directors of Square. The payment start up company is preparing to go public this year.

Now you know