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LETTER: Diversity needed in tech for innovation, not just statistics


To the Editor:

Early this week, I was watching a local news station and during its technology segment, it covered a hot new tech product. It was the Owlet Smart Sock, which monitors a baby’s vital signs and sends that information to a mobile phone so that parents can monitor their bundles of joy in a 21st-century style. I found this product to be incredibly innovative and endearing. It packs hospital technologies like a pulse oximeter into something cute, practical, wearable and easy to use. The product tagline says it all: “A little help for the hardest job in the world.”

Owlet Baby Care, Inc.'s press release states that “Owlet Baby Care, Inc. was founded in 2013 by a team of passionate parents who wanted to bring themselves — and other parents around the globe — peace of mind and assurance by developing a monitor that tracks a baby's breathing and heart rate.” Specifically, the company was founded and is led by five Brigham Young University students and recent graduates. Together they have brought an excellent tech product to market that meaningfully helps people in their personal lives.

This product and its story were beautiful examples of why diversity in the technology field is critically needed. The men who launched this product are the exception, not the rule. So many of our tech idols made their claims to fame at a young age creating an innovative product or service that appeals to other young people or people on the cutting edge of tech. It’s not very likely at all that a single young man at my age would think of a product like Owlet, or even bother to target parents and their infants as a specific market for his tech products. This means that a wide array of audiences aren’t being serviced by the technology field because the majority of innovators in the technology field aren’t thinking about such different audiences.

As much as diversity and cultural sensitivity training might enrich such employee’s lives, it can’t guarantee that they will ever innovate in the name of new and varied groups. The simplest way to cater to new and more diverse crowds is to get more diverse people into the technology field: People that come from different backgrounds and are experiencing different life situations. To do this, more people need to be exposed to technology development during their educations, and tech companies need to actively hire more diverse, qualified employees. When the tools of technology are put in the hands of more people with more varied life experiences, it is far more likely that incredible new innovations like Owlet will be realized. Diverse technological innovations are what will bring the benefits of the Digital Age to every community.

Brandon Diaz-Abreu is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in computer science.

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