The rise of Trumpism has spawned an interesting reaction: political activism from Silicon Valley. More and more tech execs are throwing their hats into the political arena or at least are getting more involved. There is increasing speculation that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is laying the groundwork for a presidential run. There is another report that Sam Altman, who heads the incubator Y Combinator, may run for governor of California.
Then there’s Alec Ross, who is not exactly a Silicon Valley veteran, but he did help craft candidate Barack Obama’s technology platform in 2008. Ross also served as Hillary Clinton’s senior innovation advisor when she was Secretary of State. Now he is running for governor of Maryland and he is directing his message to the same “forgotten men and women” that Donald Trump spoke about on the campaign trail. But rather than sealing off our borders and reviving the coal industry at the expense of the world’s climate, Ross argues that the key to a more inclusive economy depends on a simple promise: ensuring all students have access to a computer science education.
Ross proposes to set aside $10 million a year to train computer science teachers for Maryland schools. His initiative would also require all K-12 schools to teach computer science by 2022. Ten million dollars is a drop in the bucket in the state’s existing $6.3 billion education budget. Ross, who started his career as a teacher in West Baltimore, believes this investment in early skills training will prepare every kid in the state for the digital economy. Here’s a startling number: there are currently 20,000 open computing jobs in Maryland alone. These pay an average of about $100,000 a year, twice the state average. That equates to $2 billion in open salaries. Yet just 40% of Maryland’s schools offer computer science courses.
The trend is clear as day. The economy is shifting quickly and our sociopolitical and economic infrastructure needs to adjust at the same pace. However, the 2016 election proved that voters were more receptive Trump’s plan to bring back old-school manufacturing jobs. That just doesn’t make sense. As Ross has said, “Computer code is the alphabet that much of the future is going to be written in.”