Hill Quotes

The Hill Quotes Lekas on State Social Media Censorship Bills

The Hill quoted SIIA’s head of public policy and government affairs, Paul Lekas, in a piece about the rise of state legislative proposals designed to restrict the ability of social media platforms to moderate user content. Lekas explained that the bills are content-based restrictions that run afoul of the First Amendment: “The First Amendment applies to state action, and these companies are not arms of the state.” He raised concerns about state-level regulation of internet content and the risk of “a large number of class-action strike suits where harm is mostly theoretical” leading ultimately to costs that will be passed onto internet users. The article can be found here.

 

 

internet for all

SIIA Statement on Internet for All Initiative

The following statement is attributed to Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) President Jeff Joseph regarding today’s announcement of the launch of the Biden Administration’s Internet for All Initiative, which will invest $45 billion to provide affordable high-speed internet and related training for all Americans:

“The Internet for All Initiative is a critical and welcome advancement in the ongoing effort to close the technology equity gap in the United States. Broadband equity is achieved when all Americans and our communities are able to access and use affordable, high-speed, reliable internet at speeds, quality and capacity necessary to ensure everyone can participate in and reap the benefits of the digital economy.Through this program, the Commerce Department wisely seeks to engage every level of government, as internet needs vary by state.

“Importantly, this initiative recognizes that access to quality broadband is just one piece of addressing the tech equity gap. Funding for State Digital Equity Act programs will support needed digital literacy and skills training that will help traditionally underserved communities use technology confidently, creatively and critically, preparing members of these communities to meet the demands and challenges of life, learning and work in a digital society.

“Advancing digital equity is a core focus for SIIA. Removing barriers to elevate opportunities for all individuals will lead to the creation of new businesses, foster economic growth and expand access to technology itself. It also will generate educational, employment and social engagement opportunities technological innovation can foster. We thank Congress for providing this funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and to Commerce Secretary

Raimondo, NTIA Administrator Davidson, and all those across the Biden Administration for launching this vital program.”

EdTech Community Educates Congress on 2022 Policy Priorities

EdTech Community Educates Congress on 2022 Policy Priorities

Annual Advocacy Summit to Highlight Educators’ Stories and Outline Policies Needed to Improve Educational Outcomes, Expand Equity and Protect Student Data

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Washington, D.C. (May 16, 2022) – Last week, over 51 education technology leaders from 21 different states met with policymakers in-person for the first time since 2019. With stories of their experiences in hand, these edtech experts connected with key elected officials and their staffs to discuss actionable policies that will provide much-needed support for equitable and secure student success. As Congress considers legislation to lead America out of this pandemic and into a sustainable and thriving future, it has never been more important for the edtech community’s voice to be heard.

Participants in the 2022 EdTech Advocacy Day raised critical issues with policymakers last week after holding the first part of the conversation virtually in March. On Thursday, May 12, participants heard from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner Nathan Simington and Commissioner Geoffrey Starks and met with officials from the U.S. Department of Education. Participants then headed to the Hill to meet with their Senators and Representatives about supporting policies to ensure a safe transition to a post-pandemic world, connect all students and close the “Homework Gap,” fund edtech and related professional learning opportunities, and protect student data privacy.

“It was so rewarding to return to face-to-face discussions with our colleagues in both the edtech community, the Hill and government agencies last week. To have more than 70 Hill visits scheduled showed the interest from all parties about better understanding how to serve K-12 learners. Hearing directly from the FCC about their commitment and vision to support our school systems/learners provided an excellent jumping off point for legislator meetings,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN.

“The pandemic has made it clearer than ever that technology tools are essential, but not enough. We need to help educators learn to apply powerful digital pedagogy, and that requires a strong vision and targeted investments on every level, including the federal level. This was a chance for those educators most impacted by federal policy decisions to make their voices heard before those who were elected to represent them at the highest levels in our country,” said Joseph South, Chief Learning Officer of ISTE.

“While the last two years have shined a spotlight on the broadband equity access issues that existed prior to the pandemic, we cannot waste the substantial investments that have accelerated the shift to digital learning environments,” said Julia Fallon, Executive Director of SETDA. “These advocacy events help us keep federal policymakers informed and provide an opportunity to encourage them to continue to support the initiatives that connect students to their classrooms and teachers from any location – at school, at home and in their communities.”

“We are incredibly proud of the partnerships our edtech members form to help America’s students. Working side by side with educators, school administrators and others last week as a unified voice in DC serves as a reminder to policymakers that digital equity, connectivity and privacy are so very important,” said SIIA President Jeff Joseph. “We will continue to work to amplify the voices of those championing these issues nationwide.”

This year’s annual summit, which is led by CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking), ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education), SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) and SIIA (Software & Information Industry Association), was held virtually in March and in-person for the first time since 2019 on Thursday, May 12.

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About CoSN 

CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. CoSN provides thought leadership resources, community best practices and advocacy tools to help leaders succeed in the digital transformation. CoSN represents over 13 million students in school districts nationwide and continues to grow as a powerful and influential voice in K-12 education. cosn.org

About ISTE

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is a nonprofit organization that works with the global education community to accelerate the use of technology to solve tough problems and inspire innovation. Our worldwide network believes in the potential technology holds to transform teaching and learning. ISTE sets a bold vision for education transformation through the ISTE Standards, a framework for students, educators, administrators, coaches and computer science educators to rethink education and create innovative learning environments. ISTE hosts the annual ISTE Conference & Expo, one of the world’s most influential edtech events. The organization’s professional learning offerings include online courses, professional networks, year-round academies, peer-reviewed journals and other publications. ISTE is also the leading publisher of books focused on technology in education. For more information or to become an ISTE member, visit iste.org. Subscribe to ISTE’s YouTube channel and connect with ISTE on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. www.iste.org

About SETDA

Founded in 2001, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is the principal association representing U.S. state and territorial educational technology and digital learning leaders. Through a broad array of programs and advocacy, SETDA builds member capacity and engages partners to empower the education community in leveraging technology for learning, teaching, and school operations. www.setda.org

About SIIA

SIIA is the only professional organization connecting more than 700 data, financial information, education technology, specialized content and publishing, and health technology companies. Our ed tech membership develops and delivers software applications, digital instructional content, online and distance learning services, online assessment, and related technologies for millions of learners around the world. For more information, visit www.siia.net.

Supports DEI

SIIA Dedicated to Advancing Digital Equity

Advancing digital equity is a core focus for SIIA. For too long, underlying inequalities, racial biases, and discrimination have plagued the United States and communities around the world, denying too many the opportunity to contribute to and reap the benefits of the innovation economy.  Roughly one-third of unemployed Americans lack the foundational digital skills required for the estimated 75% of U.S. jobs which require such skills, according to one study. A 2021 report issued by the Federal Communications Commission approximates 42 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet. Other studies contend the FCC report undercounts those without access.

In some cases, innovation carries the biases – conscious and unconscious – of its creators and society at large. This digital discrimination ranges from preventing equal access to the technology itself to using tech in the online space to discriminate in the offline world.

SIIA, our members and the business community at large view digital equity as a critical objective that requires funding, resources as well as upskilling and training opportunities for underrepresented communities, where broadband access and related supports are lacking and yet so critical. Removing the barriers to elevate opportunities for all individuals will lead to the creation of new businesses, foster economic growth and expand access to technology itself as well as the educational, employment and social engagement opportunities technological innovation can foster. Digital equity will ensure civic and cultural participation, employment, learning, and access to essential services, which are integral to a more connected and prepared community in order to ensure lifelong success.

SIIA is working across our policy portfolio to advocate for digital equity. These efforts include but are not limited to:

  • Advancing access to broadband, with a focus on underrepresented communities. Broadband equity is achieved when all people and communities are able to access and use affordable, high-speed, reliable internet at speeds, quality and capacity necessary to accomplish common tasks and meet long-term needs. This means addressing broadband gaps across rural and urban communities where more emphasis is critical.
  • Advocating for broad access to internet-enabled devices and applications. These devices must meet the needs of the user and provide access to applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration. 
  • Supporting digital literacy and skills training. Digital literacy is the ability to identify and use technology confidently, creatively and critically to meet the demands and challenges of life, learning and work in a digital society. This includes the ability to use technology; find, use and critically evaluate information; curate data and media sources; communicate, collaborate and participate in online environments; manage your online identity as well as your personal security and privacy; and create online content, not just consume it.
  • Supporting technologies that advance DEI. As President Biden told the United Nations in 2021, we must, together, “Ensure a future where technologies are a vital tool to solving human challenges and empowering human potential, not a source of greater strife and repression.” Tech companies hold the keys to success in producing equitable technologies, if they channel their energy positively and productively and bake DEI efforts early into product design.
  • Encouraging algorithmic fairness. While the growing use of Artifical Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) systems carries enormous potential for society, there are well documented concerns that these systems can embed bias and discrimination. This can happen because of incomplete, unbalanced or poorly collected data, algorithms that reflect unconscious biases, and other reasons. Without balanced and representational data as an input, an AI or ML system can have different accuracy rates for different demographic groups. Similarly, an algorithm can make decisions that are systematically unfair to certain groups of people. Trustworthy and responsible AI practices are essential to ensure that data sets are truly representative of the populations the application seeks to serve and open to validation to analyze the data for fairness. In addition, algorithms must meet best practices before they are put to use. New technologies such as “synthetic data” – created to help fill gaps in data sets – also can help reduce bias.
  • Fighting for a comprehensive, balanced federal privacy law. Personal information such as a person’s race, religion, national origin, or gender identity can be used by bad actors online to determine eligibility for vital services like health care or insurance. In some cases, bad actors charge different prices to different groups for the same goods and services or exclude them from access altogether. A comprehensive, balanced federal privacy law can prevent bad actors from engaging in data practices that are harmful or abusive to consumers, while still ensuring that all Americans can benefit from new and innovative technologies.

More must be done. Increasing STEM and apprenticeship programs for people of color and other historically disenfranchised communities. Investing in the current workforce to provide advancement opportunities. Addressing pay equity in the tech sector. Developing incentives to encourage investment in worthy minority-owned startups. The challenge looms large but the opportunities and benefits stand taller. The nation and the industry that has led the development of innovative solutions to the world’s greatest challenges can, and must, lend that same spirit to increasing equity in the tech sector.

 

World Press Freedom Day

World Press Freedom Day 2022

The Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) joins all those who today recognize World Press Freedom Day. As creators, interpreters and distributors of high quality information, our more than 450 members are united in the belief that a free and safe press is essential to support the unrestrained flow of ideas by word and image. A free and safe press empowers individual freedom, drives economic growth, combats authoritarianism online and off, gives voice to the voiceless and otherwise brings to our attention the critical stories, data and information that inform our world view and support social, economic and political progress.

Just last week, SIIA celebrated the outstanding work of B2B journalists and publishers at our 68th annual Neal Awards ceremony. We recognized stories ranging from in-depth coverage of cutting-edge innovations to the ever-unfolding effects of the pandemic across industries, to the broad impact of the global supply chain crisis, to critical examinations on racism and inequity and beyond. These honorees represent the critical importance of a free press particularly as we work to navigate this period of rising illiberalism and historic global challenges.

The threat to press freedom is real. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a media watchdog group, finds a global decline in press freedom based on 87 questions focused on laws, self-censorship, media pluralism, independence and transparency, along with an assessment of attacks and arrests.

This year’s Press Freedom Day theme “Journalism Under Digital Siege” calls attention to the myriad ways in which surveillance and digitally mediated attacks endanger journalists and journalism. RSF reports 24 journalists have been killed this year to date and 461 are currently in prison. (Journalists are listed only if RSF has established that their death or imprisonment was linked to their journalistic activity.) Our great nation is not immune. Press Freedom Tracker for the United States shows that gag orders, prosecutions of journalists, and physical attacks and equipment damage are all on the rise, and access for journalism to courthouses and statehouses remains a challenge. The Digital Siege theme also references the critical need to strike a balance among legitimate security concerns, privacy and the need for law enforcement to have access to specific information, issues in which SIIA is intimately engaged.

Freedom is a continuum and is never guaranteed. SIIA will continue to stand up for policies that support press freedom and safety. And we will continue to celebrate the brilliant, quality journalism and publishing coming out of associations and industry that seeks to better our world.