Independence Day By Paul G. Huray

2001 July(This was originally published on July 2001)

TechnoAngels provides financial Independence for physically disabled, technically capable Americans.

Personal independence occurs the day you take a professional job that launches your career. Not a summer job or part-time menial work, but a job at your ability level that permits you to grow and prosper. For too many persons with disabilities, those jobs are never available, especially if their capability is at the level of a college graduate.

There are more than 320,000 Americans who have college degrees and can’t find appropriate level work because they also have a physical disability. These are people who would like to be contributing to society through professional jobs, and they seldom have an opportunity to become entrepreneurs. And the Department of Labor concludes that over the next five years there will be 1,425,000 new Information Technology jobs created in the US. On one hand there is an acute shortage of a skilled IT workforce (today often augmented by lifting temporary foreign quotas), while on the other hand, a vast body of disabled college graduates from the US remain unemployed or under-employed.

A new program called TechnoAngelsSM aims to change that dilemma, by providing certification, enabling assistive technologies, and – most importantly – jobs with competitive salaries, dignity and self-respect. TechnoAngels, Inc. will provide a full support mechanism for the employment of educated graduates. And not only will they be guaranteed employment at professional salary levels, the TechnoAngels themselves will own part of the company, assuring them a chance to take part in the American dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

Dr. Huray and Microsoft executives, Craig Cumberland and Wayne Johnson, exploring the potential of wireless video.
TechnoAngels(SM), has been warmly received by several large corporations, including Microsoft, with whom USC project staff has developed plans for launching the program. Together with NetGen, Inc., Time Warner and COVAD, the program enables computer-based video technology that allows a physically disabled person to learn at home from educators who prepare them for high- level help-desk and product support positions. Once they are fully trained, the TechnoAngels will communicate from home with computer users anywhere, who need technical assistance. They will participate in daily business meetings with colleagues and managers. Furthermore, their intellectual capabilities will continue to grow through technical courses offered by many universities such as the University of South Carolina and Syracuse University.

The TechnoAngels staff was invited by the National Science Foundation this fall to present the plan to a special gathering of industry executives. Several technical companies such as SCANA and Duke Energy have expressed support for TechnoAngels, which would provide professionally trained technical support staff for their respective operations. Technical companies often subcontract a portion of their help-desk or product support operations, because the profession is plagued by high turnover rates.

The plan is to provide six months of training, computer connections, and video conferencing equipment necessary for each TechnoAngel. TechnoAngels will be proficient with several Microsoft products as well as specialty areas such as Cisco, Oracle, Unix, Auto Cad, and Adobe Photoshop offered over the Web by the NetGen Corporation. “We’ll guarantee them a job working for a contract company once they’ve completed the certified training to augment their previous education,” said Huray.

The plan is to have 200 TechnoAngels in place by the end of the first phase; 2,000 by the end of the second phase; then launch the program internationally. Universities in Puerto Rico, China, Japan, Nepal and Austria already have expressed interest in participating, so TechnoAngels will eventually become international and help will be available in multiple languages.

One of the developing partners of TechnoAngels, LaMondre Pough , has a disability. “We have a vision of what TechnoAngels can become,” said Pough, “but those disabled persons who elect to join us in this venture will eventually focus that vision.” “They will own a part of the company so they will have a stake in its success.”

“We have developed a video conferencing capability that will permit TechnoAngels to become independent of transportation systems through high-speed modems and DSL networks,” said Mark Johnson. “The technology is sufficient to begin our company and we are working with other universities and industry to build even more capable and reliable video conferencing systems.”

“We are now collecting CVs of potential TechnoAngels who want to join the effort,” said Girish Yajnik . “We must succeed in phase I if we are to prosper and grow into phases II and beyond, so we are seeking 20 already highly technically qualified disabled persons to begin certification training in October.”

“Like all beginning companies, we are seeking funds to put us on a sound financial basis,” said Dr. Richard Robinson . “We have proposals pending before the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education for the training and certification, but it will be companies who provide contracts for the TechnoAngels’ services who determine our success or failure.” “Doesn’t it make sense for your company to outsource some of its help-desk or product support to a knowledgeable person with a disability?”

With higher-level employment of the disabled community, not only individuals but also society gains through new taxpayers. Companies get loyal, hard working, knowledgeable representatives and Americans fill badly needed IT jobs. TechnoAngels is a win-win-win-win opportunity that will create a financial independence day for professional persons who happen to have a disability.

Dr. Paul G. Huray (huray@sc.edu) is Carolina Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering and CEO of TechnoAngelsSM, Inc.

LaMondre Pough (lamondre@netzero.net) is one of the first TechnoAngels. Like all future employees, he owns part of the company and he will take a leadership role in making it succeed.

Mark Johnson (mjohnson@sc.edu) is technical director of TechnoAngels.

Girish Yajnik (girish@eh.sc.edu) is TechnoAngels director of Human Resources.

Dr. Richard Robinson (robinson@sc.edu) is Chief Financial Officer for TechnoAngels, Inc.

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