The need for diversity and inclusion in technology has been recognized, yet solving the issue has been a slow move for the industry. Software engineer and inventor André Gray looks to closing the digital divide as the answer.
“There are kids of color, disenfranchised kids, who do not have the same tools, the same resources as their [white] counterparts,” the Belize-born Gray explained during an interview with Connecticut News. But for his own ambitions, Gray didn’t interpret the divide as a hindrance. As of 2019, the 54-year-old Connecticut resident had 15 technology-based inventions/innovations to his name.
In 1982, Gray prepared a paper on audio compression that birthed the mathematical formula for MP3s; in 1988, he wrote, produced and uploaded the first song uploaded to the Internet. He then created software programs to track downloads and access to online music.
In 1991, he created the electronic ticket, an invention that grew to a $1trillion industry.
Gray purchased his first smartphone in 1993 and began writing the language for Ringtones and Ringbacks. The downloadable apps sector is now also a $1 trillion industry. Ringtones are on 15 billion mobile phones and counting.
Adding to his inventions of everyday technology are the voicemail icon designs used on the Internet, and now on all 15 billion-plus mobile phones; digital turntable software used by 98% of deejays worldwide and allows entire albums to be played on cell phones; and a Mind-Over-Matter technology (1994) allowing a chip implanted in the brain to control electronic devices hands-free.
Facebook, Nissan and Neuralink among others now use it.
Like many, Gray’s interest in technology began to blossom during his youth. He credits his parents for encouraging him to pursue his dreams.
“My father, being an attorney … I looked at him as a role model,” he said during the interview. “However, not wanting to be an attorney, I loved technology. He encouraged me as a child, and I just followed through.”
Gray described his parents as “very nurturing and encouraging. Anything I wanted to do, they would say, ‘sure,’ and they would let me do it.”
Over the past three decades, Gray has been ranked the No. 1 inventor in the world by various publications worldwide and is regarded as one of the five greatest inventors of all time. He is also the winner of the highly prestigious, one-time Johannes Gutenberg Inventor Prize in 2002.
Gray recognizes that his path hasn’t been easy, and insists on narrowing the divide for today’s youth. “I would like to do whatever I can in terms of words of encouragement and actually getting involved in formulating STEM programs and training the teachers to teach the kids themselves … or even teach the classes myself.
“It’s not what I can get out of it, but rather what can I give back. I’ve been very fortunate, and it’s not about me. Life is never about me. It’s what you can do to help your fellow man,” he said.
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