We’re sharing a new blog series interviewing Austin community members about their perspective on Austin’s tech scene and intersecting policies. Both technology and policy affect everyone’s lived experiences and with rapid growth and gentrification, BIPOC communities are bearing the brunt of political consequences. This blog series tries to answer the question of “How might we uplift the voices of the communities of those most affected by Austin tech and policy decisions?”
First to be interviewed is Carl Webb.
Community Perspective: Carl Webb
Hey, there! Who are you and how do you identify?
My name is Carl Webb. I’m originally from New Orleans but after my discharge from the military in 1994 I decided to stay in Texas where I’d been training as a military medic in San Antonio. Currently I’m an inside wireman with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers but I stopped working since the construction sites became hotspots for COVID19 and at home hoping to find a job I can work remotely.
How engaged are you in current Austin policy and government?
My first interaction with IT was in the Austin Public Library. I moved to Austin in 1995 when the city government allowed Austin Free Net( AFN) to install computers in the library for internet access and teach digital literacy. I was one of the first people to benefit from that training. Via AFN I got involved with the 510 Tech Club which is now called Nonprofit Tech Club Austin set up to promote online discussions that specifically center on the technology needs, experiences, and priorities of this nonprofit community. I help manage their Facebook group.
How do you value or use technology in your day to day and with work?
I use technology to help me with my activism. It’s proven to be a good way of educating myself about issues and then educating others. When my volunteer crew at the city’s Public Access Television channel asked me to help promote the show we were producing, it was Austin Free Net that taught me HTML so I could create a website. I’m not a techie so when I use IT it’s the information aspect that I concentrate on and not the technology past as much. The technology just helps me access information and equally important disseminate information. That’s why the social media aspect is my focus. This past summer I did a digital media internship with the Austin Urban Technology Movement working in their marketing department helping to manage their social media channels. At the same time I also did a digital media internship with the Austin Young Chamber.
It’s been shared that tech jobs are contributing to gentrification and pushing out Central Texas’ people of color. What changes do you think might help to mitigate these rapid changes within the Austin tech community and through city policy?
Bridging the digital divide is one of the main solutions to inequity in our community. So many people either don’t have access to technology or have the training to use it. It was because the city
partnered with a local nonprofit that I had access to a computer and was able to begin learning how to navigate the internet. The city government and corporations need to fund digital literacy efforts.
What future do you imagine for the Austin community as a whole?
I see an increased fight for more broadband access, net neutrality, and tech workers organizing.
It’s February, which means it’s Black History Month and election season is in full swing for the primary elections. March brings warmer weather and the third year of the Covid-19 virus affecting our community. Do you have any thoughts you want to share on any of these subjects?
Civic engagement needs to be promoted all the time and not just during elections. History should be promoted all year long and just on a segregated month to month basis.
Is there a way to connect with you digitally?
Thank you for your perspective, Carl!