Cultivating Baltimore's Diversity in the Innovation Economy
In a January 2018 article titled “Cities Where African Americans are Doing the Best Economically,” Forbes magazine ranked Baltimore 4th in the country. The Greater Baltimore region has also seen the number of black employees in the computer systems design industry increase by 21% over the last five years, outpacing the average industry growth of 14%.
While universities continue to strengthen their entrepreneurial support and encourage innovative developments, regional programs have created a solid foundation upon which students thrive.
Digit All Systems (DAS) is a local nonprofit “committed to bridging the digital divide and bringing the benefits of expanding tech to everyone.” Recently striking a deal with Northrup Grumman to create the Cyber Warriors Diversity Program, the partnership offers real-world cybersecurity training to students at both Coppin and Morgan State Universities.
“By offering internships, apprenticeships, and full-time employment, the Cyber Warrior program is not only investing in today’s students, but also in Baltimore’s future as a tech hub capital,” said Lance Lucas, founder of DAS. He hopes to develop a cyber program for every historically black college university (HBCU) in Maryland.
Within the same vein, MICA’s UP/Start program provides startup entrepreneurs with capital and mentorship with industry partners to help nurture ideas in sustainable businesses.
Winston Frazer, CEO of Danae Prosthetics and an UP/Start 2017 winner, shared how a trip overseas to several African countries changed his trajectory in life. After witnessing the struggles that amputees faced, and the lack of affordable solutions to improve their quality of life, Frazer returned to Baltimore and considered how his art and design skills could work in tandem with tech to create something revolutionary, and above all, user friendly. The concept for Danae Prosthetics was born.
Taura Musgrove, a filmmaker and creator of the Freedom Fighter augmented reality (AR) app, shared Frazer’s sentiments.
“I wanted to bring Baltimore’s rich civil rights history to life for young students,” she said. Once the app is developed and goes live, users will be able to get an interactive history lesson from the late civil rights pioneer (and Baltimore native) Dr. Lillie May Carrol Jackson via geo-targeted augmented reality. Musgrove’s inspiration for developing and launching Freedom Fighter came through Johns Hopkins University’s newest concentration—Immersive Storytelling & Emerging Technologies.
Once the ideas were born, both innovators went on to create their respective products with the help of these university-based resources and programs—challenging the way entrepreneurial undertakings and economic success are approached and measured.
“Baltimore is proving that the right resources and a strong foundation can lead to groundbreaking discoveries,” said Musgrove.