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The technology sector is struggling with diversity and equity issues, while many cities and communities are finding that access to technology—broadband, devices, training, etc—is also inequitable among different socioeconomic and demographic groups. Are these issues getting better? If not, why, and if so, what works? Are they related? Does not having access to tech promote/sustain inequities in the tech sector? Can technology itself be used to help identify inequities, determine causes, and help develop effective solutions to both issues? Join our conversation on these topics, featuring Austin Urban Technology Movement President and CEO Michael Ward Jr, Digi.city Founder Chelsea Collier, and Austin Forum on Technology & Society’s Jessica Sager.
Austin Forum on Technology & Society
Jessica Sager currently serves as the COO/CFO of Vizias. She also serves as the Discussions Coordinator of the Austin Forum on Technology & Society and the Austin Smart City Alliance. The Austin Forum on Technology & Society brings people together to connect, collaborate, and contribute by exploring the impact of emerging and pervasive technologies on society through live events, podcasts, and blogs. Austin Smart City Alliance works to address important civic issues through data, technology, and collaboration.
With a background as a small business and nonprofit strategist, she has worked to help grow the leaders and organizations that are committed to doing good. Jessica brings a unique combination of communication, strategic thinking, and execution skills, and she loves helping ideas take form and take flight. A local Austinite and an avid traveler, Jessica is passionate about making the world--and Austin--a smaller place through connecting people, ideas, and opportunities. She is excited to be a part of the Vizias team of experts who share her commitment to making an impact.
She is a serial nonprofit board member and volunteer for a wide variety of organizations in Austin. Currently, her community work includes serving as Vice Chair of the Dreams Come True Foundation , President of the Austin Symphony Orchestra’s BATS Young Professionals organization and serving as a member of the Women’s Fund of Central Texas Steering Committee. She also founded the Heartwood Community Garden, located in South Austin, and is still trying to grow her green thumb. Jessica received her MS in organizational leadership from Colorado State University and BA in sociology from UT Austin. In her free time, she loves hiking and exploring with her foster fail/pit rescue, Coco.
Michael Ward Jr.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Austin Urban Technology Movement (AUTM)
Michael Ward Jr. is a social entrepreneur and aspiring politician that is passionate about technology and socio-economic development. Michael is the President and CEO of Austin Urban Technology Movement (AUTM) and serves on several boards in Central Texas focused on STEM and workforce development. Michael, who is originally from Miami, FL, began his career in enterprise sales at Oracle, concentrating on cloud and on-premise technology. He also led Oracle's Black employee resource group at this time, with the goal of increasing the upward mobility of Oracle's Black employees in the United States, Canada, and Brazil.
Michael is particularly interested in workforce development, education, and socio-economic development in Black and Hispanic communities. He is tearing down barriers and silos that inhibit those who have been marginalized by the system from being self-sufficient by encouraging community engagement. Through AUTM, Michael has been able to promote the Texas Technology for All petition, which aims to offer low-income, underprivileged, and marginalized communities with internet access. He has fought to connect these communities to technological devices (mobile hotspots and computers) while also attempting to upskill and reskill these individuals in order for them to apply for technical and non-technical jobs on the AUTM job board.
AUTM has donated over 275 computers to Texans in need, has introduced over 2,000 students to technology, and currently more than 75 people enrolled in our training programs. AUTM has also collaborated with firms such as Microsoft, Google, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, and Galvanize to enhance tech diversity and digital equity. This year, AUTM announced a collaboration with Workforce Solutions to pull 10,000 residents out of poverty by concentrating on workforce development and career readiness in technology.
Michael is happily married, a Tar Heel and Miami Heat fan, and enjoys traveling and eating home-cooked meals.
Chelsea Collier convenes people across sectors to focus on how technology can be applied to civic and social challenges. She is the Founder of Digi.City, an online platform that advocates for human-centric approaches to smart city solutions. She also serves as the Editor-at-Large for Smart Cities Connect which provides meaningful content and connects a community of decision-makers to empower smart cities at all stages of growth.
She is a University of Manchester (UK) Simon Industrial & Professional Fellow (2019), a Marshall Memorial Fellow (2018) and an Eisenhower Fellow (2016). Her work has also been featured in Governing Magazine, Inc.com, Venture Beat, the Chicago Tribune and dozens of other publications. Her previous experience - state government, economic development, social enterprise, tech startup, small business - informs her cross sector approach. She lives in Austin, Texas and is active in the local tech and social impact communities. Her masters and bachelor degrees are from the University of Texas at Austin.
CTO and Co-Founder
Dave has over 20 years of experience transitioning advanced technology from academic research labs into successful businesses. His experience includes genome research, pharmaceutical development, health insurance, computer vision, sports analytics, speech recognition, transportation logistics, operations research, real time collaboration, robotics, and financial markets.
Dave has been involved in several successful startups as well as consulting and advising both small and large organizations on how to innovate using technology with maximum impact. As part of the Human Genome Project, he was responsible for mapping all known biology onto the newly developed genome sequences. At Bluefin Labs, acquired by Twitter in 2014, he helped the founders recruit a team and go from concept to a launch with the NFL in 13 weeks. At GNS Healthcare, he led the development of their first in class causal machine learning platform. Dave graduated from MIT with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and currently lives in Austin, TX.