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On Wednesday November 18 Axios' Sara Fischer and Dan Primack hosted the second in a series of three virtual roundtables, featuring policymakers, academics, and nonprofit leaders to discuss the workforce recovery after COVID-19 and the importance of digital tools, skills, and access.

Markle Foundation Chief Operating Officer Beth F. Cobert and Google.org Head of Impact and Insights Andrew Dunckelman highlighted how the pandemic has accelerated a shift to online businesses, citing research from the National Skills Coalition that reported that 1 in 3 American workers has limited or no digital skills. Roundtable participants discussed how to approach that critical digital skills gap and more broadly, the pandemic's affect on businesses and workers.

Sonja Diaz, Founding Director at UCLA's Latino Policy & Politics Initiative discussed how to create policy solutions for the businesses most acutely affected by the pandemic.

  • "A lot of the gains made by minority businesses have been outside of the regulatory sphere, meaning that they've been able to do this because of personal connections, community connections. They're under-financed and under-banked. So if we think about policy interventions, we know that tailoring and centering them on the needs of women and minority owned businesses is going to be a return on investment."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) highlighted how the digital economy is a critical part of COVID-19 economic recovery.

  • "I think what the Americans are waiting for right now is the opportunity to have something really big and bold that speaks to them about their future and their jobs. And I certainly think that the digital economy can be built right into that."

Traci Scott, Workforce Vice President at the National Urban League stressed the importance of meeting users where they're at in terms of digital skills training.

  • "We would have virtual job fairs, but what we found is that people didn't know how to work Zoom. They had never navigated through Zoom. So then we realized that we had to go even deeper in our training just to train individuals on just how to use something that we all take advantage of."

Trevor Parham, Founder and Director of Oakstop and the Oakland Black Business Fund discussed how to see digital tools as something beyond just economic exchange.

  • "We need to focus not just on tools that are going to allow people to create economic transactions, but on whether it is technology or other tools or infrastructure that is going to allow us to restore our ability to be a real human community."

Read the recap of our first roundtable event here.

Thank you Google for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 27, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Global data-driven change

On Thursday, January 27, Axios' Ina Fried hosted a conversation on the social impact of Big Data, featuring Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) and former U.S. chief technology officer and founder and CEO of shift7, Megan Smith.

Megan Smith. unpacked how data can help solve some of the biggest equity issues across our economy and society today, and the importance of having everyone at the table.

  • On solving social issues that are exacerbated by new technologies: "It's just not for the tech community to decide [how to fix this] on behalf of all of us, especially because they face extraordinary bias in their hiring practices and their teams' dismissiveness of people who are not of a certain group."
  • On how the government should approach solving problems that cross technological and policy divides: "The key there is less about what and more about who. Who is in the government teams, who is actually in the tech teams? Are they more balanced? How do we get more of society at the table together so that we're more fluent as we work on this?"

Rep. Yvette Clarke highlighted the risks and rewards of using Big Data, as well as the shared responsibility of the public and private sectors to keep the public informed.

  • On how algorithms can amplify existing biases: "[Big Data] can be great in making advances in our civil society. The other side is it can become a mirror of some of the inequities that exist in the real world...and that reflection can be programmed into algorithms."
  • On a balanced approach to technology regulation: "I really want to make sure that the public is educated and informed...[That] we also hold the companies accountable for the ways in which they perpetuate harm in certain respects and reward where they're doing good."

Axios' Chief People Officer Dominique Taylor hosted a View from the Top segment with Intel Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer Sandra Rivera to discuss collaboration and creating change from within the tech industry.

  • "We have convened other industry leaders to really drive meaningful, lasting change forward. This is such a big challenge and opportunity. It doesn't really work that any one company can do [it] alone: We take our role in terms of leading that work by participating, collaborating with other tech giants."

Thank you Intel for sponsoring this event.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."