Geek of the Week
Shahed Chowdhuri is a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft and a public speaker in the D.C. Metropolitan area. He focuses on app, game, and Web development and cloud training for startups, independent developers, enterprise developers, and students. With over 17 years of professional software development experience, Chowdhuri has the technical background to mentor today’s entrepreneurs. In his current role at Microsoft, he assists startups in getting up and running on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform. In his spare time, he builds indie games and developer tools via OnekSoft Games and OnekSoft Labs. He is also the founder of multiple game development groups on Facebook.
People’s Hero of the Week
Ximena Hartsock is President and Co-Founder of Phone2Action, a venture-backed, award-winning civic technology startup based in Washington, D.C. In this role, she is responsible for the organization’s innovation and operations. Hartsock is an advocate at heart and has been involved in social advocacy campaigns since she was 11. Prior to co-founding Phone2Action, she managed membership and outreach for a national advocacy organization, where she ran hundreds of campaigns across the US. She has also held numerous leadership positions in Washington, DC, including spending time as a principal, assistant superintendent, and agency director. In 2009, she was appointed to the Executive Cabinet of DC Mayor Fenty. Hartsock previously served as the Deputy Chief for Teaching and Learning at DC Public Schools where she led key reforms, including the implementation of a comprehensive “out of school time” program that served students after-school, on weekends, and in summer. She has a Doctorate in Policy Studies from the George Washington University and she was born and raised in Santiago Chile. She is passionate about education and about empowering people to take action to make this world a better place.
Multicultural Entrepreneur of the Week
Anita Stephens Graham is co-founder and managing director of Graham Communications, Inc., a company she created (doing business as Graham & Associates) to provide financial advisory services to lower middle and middle market companies, with a particular interest in women- and minority-owned businesses. She previously served as a General Partner at Opportunity Capital Partners (OCP), a private equity firm with $135 million of capital under management. Graham has invested in an array of sectors including publishing, radio and television broadcasting, and multimedia content providers. She previously served as the President of Renaissance Capital Corporation, and has served on the FCC’s Advisory Committee on Diversity.
Digital Divider of the Week
The Digital Divide
“The Digital Divide” may be an obvious choice for “Digital Divider of the Week,” but increased government focus is bringing new attention to the issue as the Federal Communications Commission considers revitalizing its Lifeline Universal Service Program. The Pew Research Center recently reported that 84 percent of American adults use the Internet, with the highest adopters being younger adults from more affluent households; yet, according to the FCC’s 2015 Broadband Progress Report, 55 million Americans that represent 17 percent of the population still lack access to “advanced telecommunications capability,” and those affected consumers tend to be disproportionately people of color, economically disadvantaged, without formal education, non-English speaking, and older. Without access, these already marginalized groups are left at an increased disadvantage when it comes to upward mobility and success. Specifically, they lose access to jobs, education, telemedicine, civic engagement, social services, and other opportunities broadband access affords. Thankfully, the FCC is taking increased steps to bridge this gap by reforming its three decade-old Lifeline program, which was created in 1985 to provide low-income households with access to subsidized landline telephone service. It has become increasingly clear in recent years, however, that access to a landline phone is not enough, as our telecommunications landscape has changed significantly since the program was created over 30 years ago when the Internet as we know it did not exist. The FCC is considering expanding the program to include subsidies for broadband subscriptions for low-income households, among other reforms. And the Commissioners all agree – although some with reservations – that the program needs to be modernized for our 21st century society. MMTC recently commented on the issue with a coalition of 16 other diverse national organizations, and we hope to see the positive reforms on the horizon come to fruition.