Uncertainty defined life in California this past year. Together, we struggled through a deadly pandemic and a record-setting wildfire season and underwent a much-needed social reckoning on racial justice.
But as vaccination rates continue to rise, and new leadership situates themselves into the Capitol, there is reason for optimism. We have an opportunity for community voices to remind policymakers that our state’s technology sector has been a true bright spot as digital tools, platforms, and services continue to serve as a tide that lifts all boats.
With technology in our corner, caregivers will receive much-needed support, seniors will become less isolated, and we will all benefit as a result.
COVID-19 exposed vulnerable populations across the state like never before. And that is particularly true of our seniors, a longtime target of scammers and fraudsters who have capitalized on the pandemic to take advantage of our aging community members.
Fortunately, technology partners rose to the occasion. Initiatives like Scam Spotter thwarted countless efforts to exploit vulnerable populations and empowered seniors with the information necessary to spot scams, while actively blocking millions of emails and calls from ever reaching their targets.
In addition, community-based organizations like Front Porch and their Center for Innovation and Wellbeing are connecting older adults, research partners, and technology companies to identify potential opportunities and rapidly deploy solutions to help older adults maintain brain health, enhance social connectedness, prevent emergencies, and give them control over their own health.
And, as outlined in Gov Newsom’s Master Plan for Aging, we know social isolation remains a top issue facing seniors today – the ability to communicate virtually with friends and family has been crucial to both mental and physical health.
When I represented District 47 (San Bernardino) in the Assembly, I spent my days in the Capitol urging my colleagues to pay more attention to our state’s senior care crisis and the burden imposed on family caregivers, like me. With technology in our corner, caregivers will receive much-needed support, seniors will become less isolated, and we will all benefit as a result.
The capital of global high-tech innovation is right here in our proverbial backyard. A major engine of our state economy, Silicon Valley has over a thousand technology companies, large and small — 30 of them on Fortune’s 1000 list of firms — and many of them household names around the world.
Now is the time for our legislators – from Sacramento to D.C. – to recognize technology companies for what they truly are: massive employers and key drivers of our state’s economic growth.
The tech sector has also been integrally involved in an effort on all of our minds – vaccination. Local governments have leaned on leading technology companies to support such a considerable set of logistical and data-oriented challenges.
Companies like IBM are offered digital supply chain management technologies to assist in the organization of vaccine distribution efforts, and Google has broadened its Cloud storage capacity to handle the online influx – while at the same time launching a multi-million dollar fund to fight vaccine misinformation.
It is worth examining the resilience that California’s small business community has demonstrated through the pandemic as well, and again how technology platforms stepped up. When the pandemic began, small businesses adapted and quickly sprang into action, implementing intense safety measures to keep customers safe, communities employed, and our economy moving.
This adaptation, enabled in large part by digital technologies, was critically important to minority-owned businesses in particular who have been disproportionately impacted by both business closures and health impacts as a result of the pandemic. In the absence of reliable PPP loans for Black-owned businesses, digital tools proved a necessary equalizer for these local businesses to keep their lights on.
Now is the time for our legislators – from Sacramento to D.C. – to recognize technology companies for what they truly are: massive employers and key drivers of our state’s economic growth, who have risen to the occasion during the pandemic to protect vulnerable populations and support public health efforts.
And with so much before our state and federal lawmakers, including the ongoing climate crisis, the need for senior community support, voting rights for minority populations, and other core priorities, we should stay focused on making headway on these issues rather than denigrating our homegrown technology partners.
In the months ahead, our political leadership should make a concerted effort to encourage further contributions from the technology sector and create an environment more welcoming to growth, investments, and partnerships.
We should seize the opportunity to embrace a homegrown industry that is not only essential to the rebuilding of our local and national economies, but one that has proven to be a steady partner through the multitude of challenges we’ve faced together this past year.
Editor’s Note: Cheryl Brown, a former member of the state Assembly for the 47th District, is a member of the California Commission on Aging. She can be reached at email@example.com.