Week ahead: Encryption, Silicon Valley diversity top agenda

Washington is keeping its eyes on Silicon Valley's diversity crisis.

On Wednesday, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will release a survey of 900 "people who qualify as innovators because they have made meaningful, marketable contributions in technology-intensive industries."

The group said it had found that women and minorities were underrepresented in the group. That finding is likely to spur Washington interest in the debate over how to make the tech workforce at major companies more diverse.

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Tech companies have been under fire in recent years for employing very few women and even fewer people of color.

Only 2 percent of employees at Google are black, while 3 percent are Hispanic, for example. Other companies have similarly low levels of diversity on their teams.

That's drawn scrutiny from lawmakers. The Congressional Black Caucus currently runs its own initiative to encourage diversity in tech. That includes a slate of bills aimed at addressing the problem and events meant to raise awareness of the group's efforts.

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), a member of the group, will speak at the ITIF event.

In addition to the Congressional Black Caucus, the White House is also working with Silicon Valley on diversity efforts and looking to boost science, engineering, technology and math education for young children, regardless of their background.

It's also budget season, and while Republicans won't take up President Obama's fiscal 2017 blueprint, agency officials are testifying before Congress.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Commerce Penny PritzkerPenny PritzkerOvernight Cybersecurity: Obama signs trade secrets bill Overnight Finance: Trump now open to raising minimum wage Pritzker urges passage of trade deals to boost US exports MORE will appear before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to talk about the department's request. The Justice Department has its own budget hearing on Wednesday.

On Thursday, a subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on emerging cybersecurity threats from countries like China, Iran, Russia and North Korea. It will also address threats from non-state actors, like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Two lawmakers are also expected to release additional details on their long-awaited cybersecurity bill on Wednesday. The bill would establish a commission to determine how law enforcement could access encrypted information without threatening the privacy of Americans.

The debate has been fueled by the standoff between Apple and the government, which is asking the tech giant to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters.

 

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