Remarks of Secretary Julián Castro
2015 eMerge Americas Conference
Monday, May 4, 2015
Miami, Florida

As prepared for delivery

Thank you very much, Mayor Gimenez, for your kind words and for all the outstanding work you're doing for Miami-Dade County.

I'd also like to thank Xavier Gonzalez, Manny Medina, and everyone who's helped to organize this incredible conference.

I'm sure there aren't many events that feature both Pitbull and Deepak Chopra, let alone tons of tech leaders from across the Americas. 

I look out at all of you and see more than just entrepreneurs and innovators - I see the future. So this is truly a special gathering and I'm honored to be a part of it.

However, as we meet here today, we cannot ignore the great unrest and frustration that's rising up outside these doors in communities across the United States.   

From Baltimore to Ferguson to New York and beyond, we're seeing folks standing up and speaking out - hungry for fairness and crying out for opportunity.   

What we're seeing is about much more than just policing - it's also about decades of disinvestment that have denied these communities access to decent housing, good jobs, and quality schools for generations.

It's about the pain of poverty and the hurt of unfulfilled hopes. It's about fellow Americans who look at their own future and see obstacles rather than opportunities because the deck is stacked against them. 

Now, there isn't a single solution to these complex challenges, but I do know one thing: the work that y'all do can be and must be at the core of the answer.  

I don't have to tell you that technology represents opportunity. It has the power to enhance how we work, how we learn and how we live.

It allows a small business in Baltimore to sell to a customer in Brazil with the click of a mouse. It can give a young child in Ferguson access to unlimited knowledge with the swipe of a screen. 

It allows folks ranging from Miami, to Argentina, to California to connect and advance common interests for the common good, and as HUD Secretary, I'm not here to tell you what's next for technology. 

I'm here to ask for your help in ensuring that every person has the chance to access technology and to thrive in the 21st century global economy.

The good news is that this region of the world has shown that this work is possible.

Over a ten-year-period-as trade between the United States and the Americas grew nearly threefold-more than 70 million people in Latin America were able to escape poverty.

In the U.S. alone we've seen a record 61 straight months of private sector job growth, resulting in 12.1 million new jobs and higher wages. 

This means more entrepreneurs are able to turn their ideas into startups; more skilled workers are able to support your businesses; and more consumers are available for your products. 

Our challenge now is to ensure that every person can participate in this growth.

Everyone in this room has a stake in making this happen. Our world is more interconnected than ever before. Our economies are linked and our futures are shared. 

So we've got to work together to prosper together, and I assure you that the Obama Administration is committed to making this an era of expanding digital opportunity.

This work is being built on three pillars. The first is increasing access to training and digital skills so that more Americans can secure well-paying jobs.

Right now in the United States there are five million job openings - and half-a-million of those are in technology and pay, on average, 50 percent higher than other jobs. 

And as the President has said, many of these jobs-with titles like "Mobile App Developer" and "User Interface Designer" - didn't exist just a decade ago. 

We need to fill these jobs for the sake of our national economy - but talented individuals, who don't have 4-year degrees, have historically been shutout of this process. The President is working to change this with an initiative called Tech Hire. 

It brings together employers, community colleges, and other partners to rapidly train and hire workers for well-paying tech jobs - often in just a few months. More than 20 communities are part of Tech Hire so far, and the list is growing.

The effort is designed to help folks like Husani Burton from San Francisco, who grew up without a computer, and in a community with limited exposure technology. 

He told a local news station that Tech Hire "gives people like us a chance to see the technology, a chance to use it, and a chance to learn how to be a part of the field one day."

In other words Tech Hire represents opportunity - and it's going to benefit families, businesses, and your industry for generations to come. 

The second pillar of digital opportunity is giving folks of all backgrounds their own access to technology. In this day and age broadband access is no longer a luxury - it's a necessity. 

But here in the United States the Census Bureau estimates that 1 out of every 4 American households lacks high-speed Internet at home, and so often they're forced to try to find access somewhere, somehow. 

Take the Bronx, for example. I read that when the Bronx Library Center opens up every morning, dozens of people are already lined up to use one of the free computers.

When it closes, young people lean against the windows from the outside because they're trying to get the free WiFi signal on their phones. Think about that: they're literally and figuratively on the outside looking in. 

These young Americans are not on a level playing field because they're not connected. They're at disadvantage when studying for a test or preparing for a school project. 

They're limited when looking for jobs and applying for them. Folks are being denied the world of possibilities that so many of us take for granted, and we've got to do something about it.

President Obama has challenged the nation to connect 99% of American's students to broadband and wireless in their schools and libraries by 2018. As HUD Secretary, I've made it a goal to ensure this access follows them home. 

I look forward to working with leaders like you to make this goal a reality. Together, we can shape a future where nobody is left behind and every person has the chance to get ahead.  

The last pillar of digital opportunity is using technology to transform the way the public sector does business. 

It's no secret that, in the past, government has been too slow to change with the times. It's often felt like government is using a "dial-up" approach when the rest of the world is operating at broadband speed.

That's why the President has been determined to bring the federal government into modern times. He launched the U.S. Digital Service - a new department that's comprised of top tech talent that includes the lead developer on Google Chrome, the third engineer ever hired at Amazon, and other problem solvers, doers and makers. 

They strive every day to simply make government better so that veterans can get their benefits faster; so older Americans can manage their Social Security funds better; so that students can easily identify the most affordable loan repayment plans, and so much more.

These folks have said that mastering technology is one of the greatest challenges facing our government, and our generation is answering the call - and I ask you to consider answering this call with them. 

The Digital Service is always looking for new talent, fresh ideas and different perspectives.   You have the power to make the U.S. government better, and I encourage you to seize the opportunity.  

There is nothing more rewarding than public service. Technology in government is about a lot more than coding and programing - it's about making a difference and bettering people's lives.

I know this from first-hand experience at HUD. 

For example, our Department is one of the leads in the President's effort to end homelessness as we know it. And we recognize that to fully tackle a challenge, we need to see it and understand it first.  

So we're using data more than ever before to ensure that our resources are getting to those who need it most, building on the things we know are working, and adjusting those that aren't.

We also created a mobile app to help our local partners fully capture the needs that they're seeing on the ground so we can enhance our efforts even further. The result of this work is a 21 percent drop in chronic homelessness and a 33 percent drop in homelessness among veterans from 2010 to 2014. 

And we continue to look for new ways to incorporate technology into our work to provide those we serve with they help and hope they need for the future. And again, I'm here today to ask for your help. 

All of you in this room are on the frontlines of change and progress. You keep the United States-and this region of the world-focused on thinking bigger, on moving forward, and on crafting new solutions to old problems. 

One of the core questions that we must answer at this moment in history is how do we shape a future and a tech revolution that welcomes everyone?

I outlined core components of the answer today: increasing access to technology in homes and communities, equipping folks with 21st century skills and building a modern government that works better. 

But the other key component is all of you. You know how to dream and discover, and I ask you to use your imagination to make an impact on the ground so that others can dream and discover as well.

This is an age of possibility. We must continue to set our sights high, to achieve lasting progress.

Only then can we ensure that the new frontiers of technology will help usher in a new chapter of inclusive growth here in Florida, in Baltimore, in Ferguson, across the United States and throughout the Americas.

And I look forward to working with all of you to build a future where digital opportunity reaches all.

Thank you very much. 


Content Archived: March 17, 2017