BROWNSVILLE, Texas – South Texas tech entrepreneur Beto Altamirano is concerned about the low levels of digital literacy within the Latino community.

The co-founder and CEO of Irys expressed that concern when he spoke at the inaugural Insights Unplugged speaker series that was held at the eBridge Center for Business & Commercialization. 

Altamirano, a Sharyland native, was joined on stage by his good friend, Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez. 

The Insights Unplugged speaker series is sponsored by the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation and the UT-Rio Grande Valley’s Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center. 

San Antonio-based Irys builds AI-driven tools to engage communities in order to bring real-time visibility and data analytics to urban stakeholders. 

One of the many topics Altamirano brought up in his conversation with Mendez was the importance of more Hispanics becoming tech savvy. He said he, himself, had plans to become a lawyer but while at law school realized his true passion was technology and entrepreneurialism.

“I found a passion for building things through technology, digital solutions. And I think that’s what I want to change also in South Texas, and I think you’re doing it here in Brownsville, right?” Altamirano said to Mendez.

He was referring to the City of Brownsville’s public-private partnership with Lit Communities to build a super-fast and reliable citywide fiber network. The project, which is expected to be Brownsville’s fastest internet network, is known as BTX Fiber.

“We need more… we need to diversify our economy, and we need to have more of those actors that are thinking outside the box,” Altamirano said. “I’m not saying that being an accountant, a doctor or a lawyer is… it is a great profession, right? But what I’m saying is, imagine if we have more entrepreneurs, tech entrepreneurs, movers and shakers in that industry that can inspire younger generations to see that that is possible.”

Altamirano said this is a big challenge in South Texas. 

“Sometimes it’s hard to see yourself doing something until you meet the person or you start working inside of that company that is next door. For example, SpaceX, here in Brownsville.”

Altamirano then ran through some of the data.

“By 2050 about 30 percent of the population in the United States is going to be Latino. Yet, less than ten percent of the workforce at Google, at Amazon, and a lot of these tech companies are Latino.”

He said the same is true with venture capital.

“When you look at venture funding, less than one percent of (Latino) tech entrepreneurs raise venture funding. I am part of that data. It took me a long time to raise funding. Yes, it was before 2021, before the surplus in cash in the tech world, and before Silicon Valley went down and all of that. But I still had a hard time raising money,” Altamirano said.

“So when you look at the data, what worries me… is that we’re not equipping younger generations (of Latinos) with the right education to go into STEM.”

This, he predicted, will negatively impact the South Texas economy and, eventually, that of the nation. He said the South Texas region will be less able to compete with other parts of the world.

“It’s not just the region, but it’s the country as a whole. By 2050, if we (Latinos) reach 30% population and we are not competitive in the economy, our whole country is going to suffer economically. So we need to be aware of that. And it’s a big challenge.”

He then offered a few answers.

“Education is one of them. But the other one is digital infrastructure, which is a good segue to talk about the digital divide, right? The digital divide is very evident. There’s no denying that, especially here in South Texas, in San Antonio, in Brownsville and in McAllen, in the entire Rio Grande Valley. And we need to address that,” Altamirano said.

“It’s not just connecting people to the internet. It’s also digital literacy, I think it’s about 50% of the people, right, in the Rio Grande Valley, that don’t feel comfortable using technology. And that’s dangerous because technology is moving so fast. And I’m not going to get started with ChatGPT, right, but things are moving fast.”

Altamirano added: “If we’re not equipping our communities in South Texas with the right understanding of technology, of innovation, but more than anything of the education on how to use these tools and to not be afraid of using these tools, we’re going to start lagging behind and our medium income is going to keep going down, instead of us competing with other cities, major cities throughout the country. But, I know that the mayor has a solution for that here in Brownsville.” 

Mayor Mendez then spoke about Brownsville’s BTX Fiber project.

Interviewed by the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service after the event, Mendez said he “absolutely” agreed with Altamirano’s analysis.

“I think that Latinos need to play a larger role not just in leadership, but because of the population, I think we are destined to be a larger part of technology, a larger part of STEM careers, a larger part of innovation. I think that that is the future. But in order to get there, we have to continue to have those opportunities, continue to have role models, continue to have leaders and continue to have education that gives us that ability to be in those positions,” Mendez said.


Beto Altamirano is the CEO & Co-founder of Irys, a company building AI-driven tools that engage communities to bring real-time visibility and data analytics to urban stakeholders. Altamirano’s interest in public policy has led him to work at the Texas House of Representatives, United States Senate, White House – United States Trade Representative, and the Alamo Area MPO.

Altamirano’s involvement in public policy was recognized by the Aspen Institute Latinos & Society and the Center for Urban Innovation, where he served as a scholar, co-authoring reports highlighting the Millennial civic potential. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Grant, a Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur list maker, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and a Presidential Leadership Scholar under the Clinton Foundation and George W. Bush Institute.

In 2021, Altamirano was appointed by San Antonio’s District 1 to serve as a Board Member for the Port Authority of San Antonio, a public entity that manages a technology and innovation campus focused on aerospace, defense, manufacturing, and cyber security. In 2022, he was appointed to represent the United States as a Member of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Task Force on Digitalization in Energy.

Altamirano holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he served as a U.S Latino Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Center for Public Leadership and as a Cheng Fellow at the Harvard Social Innovation and Change Initiative Center.

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