“I believe in technology. I think it’s important. As mayor, I’m going to be very pro-active and aggressive,” the mayor said. “We need people to see it from an economic standpoint to make them self-sufficient and start their own business. Small business is the backbone of our city. We have 80,000 companies with fewer than 10 employees. Getting into the technology marketplace is important.”
Joining the mayor were Jamal Simmons, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance; Antonio Williams, Comcast’s director of government affairs; Janell Conner, CEO and design director for Public Design Unit; and Carolyn Williams, deputy director of the Jacksonville Public Library.
The mayor has prioritized business development and education. Saturday’s panel discussion came as he marked his 100th day in office.
“Forty-four of every 1,000 workers in Florida are employed by high-tech firms,” Simmons said. “You can make $29,000 to $30,000 more in a high-tech job. There are so many opportunities.”
Simmons’ organization focuses on expanding broadband Internet access in underserved communities.
Conner, who used the Internet at home to start her company, said, “Investing in technology in our school system is one of the most important pieces. For students who don’t have Internet access at home, being able to explore new experiences during school creates opportunities for them to be whatever they want to be.”
Carolyn Williams said home broadband access is a critical tool for modern-day public libraries.
“We are not just basing our services around people coming into the building. We are the virtual library,” she said. “Ability to access information is truly becoming a 24-7 operation.”
Job-seekers need broadband access now more than ever, said Antonio Williams.
“Even applying for jobs now, companies all have their applications online,” he said. “That’s why what we’re talking about here is so important.”
The group spent about an hour talking about the state of broadband access while exploring things policy-makers could do to expand the system.