Google's announcement this week that it is opening a new tech lab in in the heart of the Fruitvale district, is a sign that Oakland's tech culture is swiftly crystallizing. Google's Oakland presence will be a first for the city whereby a tech giant ostensibly seeks to cultivate real inclusion with significant African American and Latino youth population's here in Oakland. Google's new tech lab is a collaboration with MIT Lab and the Code Next Lab, to 'focus on educating young people in Oakland in the educational and career possibilities that computer science and nearby Silicon Valley offer.' It will open in October 2016. The program will be comprised of training and mentoring to the next generation of African American and Latino students. The program targets middle school students to participate in an engaging after-school program to complement new curriculum the Oakland Unified School District is currently implementing, which includes computer science curriculum for kids in those grades.
"Google's outreach to leverage Oakland's inclusive innovative ecosystem has been an open door approach to the community, and that is a warm welcome that tech giants should emulate," said Kalimah Priforce, CEO of Qeyno Labs which holds coding competitions for Oakland youth. "It takes a village, and Google gets it. To survive in Oakland, it has to be about community investment."
Google, which reported $74.5 billion in revenues in 2015, is undoubtedly one of the most profitable tech/internet companies anywhere. The company has stated recently that it is hiring more diverse workers: 4% of hires in 2015 were black and 5% were Hispanic in 2015. Even still, these stats have had little impact in its overall percentage of underrepresented African Americans and Latinos in the Google workforce, with Latinos making up 3% of the work force and African Americans 2%.
While the new Google tech lab presence in Oakland is a positive move in the right direction where tech inclusion is concerned, whether it will ultimately serve to genuinely welcome talented young local African American and Latino techies to acquire coveted tech employment along with matching six-figure salaries, remains to be seen. We certainly hope so!