Jordana Barton to discuss RGV’s Digital Divide

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EDINBURG, RGV – The next LIVE at Bob’s show, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, features Jordana Barton, a senior advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ San Antonio branch.

Barton will discuss how digital inclusion leads to upward mobility for a community. The backdrop to the discussion is Barton’s tireless work to bridge the digital divide in the Rio Grande Valley.

Jordana Barton

Barton will make the point that a closing the digital divide is vital for regional economic development. She will also talk about preparing the Valley’s workforce for what she calls the 4th industrial revolution.

“I plan to discuss digital equity and economic development. What we are experiencing right now is a rigid economy where the normal pathways to the middle class have been put off because of changes in manufacturing and retail, with e-commerce and automation, and other forces,” Barton said.

“This causes the wealth and income inequality. You cannot have inter-generational mobility with those kinds of extremes in your economy.”

Barton said the discussion needs to focus on how critical digital inclusion and digital infrastructure are for a strong economy.

“And creating a really strong middle class where people have entry points into the middle class. That is what we have lost, but there are so many opportunities to change that and intervene,” Barton said.

“All the futurists are predicting greater and greater wealth and income inequality, so the poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer.”

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has been working with the City of Pharr and PSJA ISD on a pilot program to bridge the digital divide in Las Milpas. Barton will talk about this during the LIVE at Bob’s conversation.

“What we are doing on the border and what I would like to work with economic development leaders on is investing in this vital area (of digital infrastructure) that will help create strong pathways to the middle class and beyond. It will also create an eco-system for entrepreneurship and attracting business and jobs to the region,” Barton said.

Barton has penned a chapter titled “Preparing Workers for the Expanding Digital Economy” in “Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers,” a new book that is being produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. She will talk about the book and her specific chapter at the LIVE show.

“In that piece I talk about the supply-side, where the workers are helping people participate in the economy with digital inclusion. And then also the demand-side, how broadband infrastructure is vital to attracting businesses and jobs.”

Barton provides an example of how the Valley has missed out on economic development because it is not sufficiently wired.

“Cecilia Corral is from the Valley. She just got on the 30 Under 30 with Forbes. She isa a good example, having her business in Silicon Valley when she could have it in the Valley – if there was the broadband infrastructure to support her,” Barton said.

Corral, a PSJA graduate, is co-founder and vice president of product at CareMessage.

“What is Cecilia’s strength? Her knowledge and design in engineering, of course, but it is also her strength in cultural competency, her bicultural, bilingual knowledge. It is helping her company have this strength and ability to serve low- and moderate-income people.”

Barton is convinced the border region has great human assets that have yet to be tapped.

“We have assets on the border. Why do we need to lose those assets? When you are investing in infrastructure, you are investing in people. All of those awesome STEM programs we are building on the border, we need to do the rest of the story. The rest of the story is creating this eco-system for entrepreneurship. We need to make sure they have the infrastructure to create their businesses and keep them there. To create this vibrant economy.”

Barton says she will also talk about telehealth in her presentation.

Barton will be joined in the panel discussion by UT-Rio Grande Valley economics professor Marie T. Mora, a board member for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ San Antonio branch.

Tickets for the show are available online or by contacting Mae Vela of Bob’s Steak & Chop House at (956) 605-9052. Tickets cost $25 per person and include a three-course meal.