Many Black chief innovation officers (CIOs) feel empowered to speak up about their own experiences with racism and bias, as people flood the streets in protest. Illinois CIO Ron Guerrier reflected on his experience as a Black professional. He said watching nearly two weeks of sustained demonstrations and seeing white political leaders embrace the need for police reform suggests this time might truly be different. Guerrier added that he also sees opportunities for change from his perch as a statewide CIO. Guerrier credited Gov. J.B. Pritzker with giving him the authority to pursue a broad IT agenda aimed at promoting equity around the state. “I have a platform,” he said. “We have hackathons in the Black community. We met with as many Black-owned technology companies as we could and we shared our strategy. I let them know where I’m going with artificial intelligence and mainframe and discussed how we promote them to the next level, so they don’t always have to be connected to a Microsoft or SAP or Google. I want them to have a seat at the table.” Guerrier also mentioned Illinois’ $420 million broadband expansion program and promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in Black and Latino communities. He mentioned the Chicago Tech Academy, a 98% Black STEM-focused high-school on the city’s West Side and luring a major conference for Black IT professionals to relocate from Minneapolis to Chicago in 2021. Guerrier has had conversations with other Black state CIOs, including Ervan Rodgers in Ohio and James Collins in Delaware, noting there may be a greater emphasis on how IT can heal racial divides in addition to digital ones.
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