Austin Tech Alliance is blessed with dedicated interns who use their time and talent to help further ATA’s mission of promoting civic engagement in Austin’s tech sector.

In this profile, meet Jada Fraser, a University of Texas at Austin student who’s interning with ATA during the summer of 2018.

What got you interested in interning for Austin Tech Alliance?

Coming from a Liberal Arts background, I’ve always felt a little intimidated and out of place in tech spaces. Previously, I had never associated my passion for advocacy work with anything tech-related. When I found the opportunity to intern for ATA, I was really intrigued by the ways in which civic engagement and advocacy work were being synthesized into the tech community of Austin.

Austin Tech Alliance operates at a really unique intersection of policy education and advocacy work for civic challenges. Since Austin is charmingly nicknamed Silicon Hills I felt that interning for ATA would be a really good way for me to expand my horizons and get a little bit more comfortable in the tech scene while still remaining true to the advocacy work I’m passionate about.

What’s one thing you want to accomplish during your time interning at ATA?

I’d like to publish a post on the ATA website about how the $55 million AISD bond for district wide technological improvements will have disproportionately negative impacts on students without access to the internet or internet using devices at home. I’m very interested in the multifaceted effects of the digital divide in Austin and how its impacts are felt disproportionately by members of the Latinx and Black communities in East and South Austin.

Austin’s digital divide encompasses 55,000 residents, one out of 20 people who don’t have access to the internet. Schools with the poorest funding are also in East and South Austin and have larger black and brown student populations. With more school work and homework being assigned that necessitates students having access to to the internet and internet using devices, students in these underserved areas of Austin are going to fall more and more behind academically, further disenfranchising them from equitable attainment of opportunities. I want to look at these demographics and ensure the post is framed around improving digital inclusion and equity.

Why is civic engagement important to you?

Civic life is broad ranging and nearly all encompassing, in that people are often times unconsciously involved in participating in it. There certainly is a big difference between intentionally participating in civic life and unknowingly reaping the benefits/consequences of decisions made by elected officials.

There is an especially prominent disconnect between civic engagement and political participation in my generation, and I have not gone unaffected by this divide. While individuals in my generation are becoming more and more engaged in activist activities such as protesting, organizing, and petitioning, the fact remains that the voting turnout of 18-26 year olds in the 2016 election was significantly lower than every other age demographic.

The importance of civic engagement lies in informing individuals of all the ways in which our different levels of government affect so much of our day to day life so that they might place a greater stake in taking part in deciding who gets to cause those effects.