By Tom Still
MADISON – A bit about a lot of things:
Growth spurt in tech jobs: Wisconsin’s information technology economy kept growing in 2015, according to a sneak preview of the latest “Cyberstates” report from CompTIA, the nation’s largest IT industry trade association.
The state added 3,885 tech industry jobs – defined by Cyberstates as IT, research and development, testing and engineering services – for a total of 97,600 direct tech jobs. That’s good for 20th among the 50 states. The total is higher (149,500) when “tech occupation” jobs are counted. That term loosely describes non-tech-based jobs within technology companies, of which Wisconsin has 5,970.
Wisconsin’s growth rate in tech jobs was 4.1 percent, somewhat faster than the U.S. average of 3 percent. That’s an encouraging sign as tech-based companies are launched, relocate or grow in Wisconsin. The report, based on federal labor statistics, also noted tech industry wages in Wisconsin ($77,600) are 76 percent above the state’s private-sector average ($44,200).
Wisconsin’s biggest tech sectors are IT services and computer systems design, engineering services, telecommunications, software publishing and Internet services. The leading occupations within those broad categories are computer systems analysts, software developers (“apps”), computer-controlled machine tool operators, computer user support specialists and mechanical engineers.
The Cyberstates report does not cover most tech jobs in Wisconsin life sciences, such as medical devices, medical imaging and biotechnology, which are separately estimated at nearly 30,000 jobs. Add it all up and Wisconsin’s tech sectors now represent about 7 percent of the overall economy.
Tech Summit open for applicants: It’s not as racy as Tinder or other match-making sites, but the third annual Wisconsin Tech Summit will be a “speed dating” event for companies large and small. To be held April 25 at the GE Healthcare Summit in Waukesha, the Tech Summit will match selected emerging companies with at least a dozen major companies that may be looking for strategic partners. It’s all done in a series of 15-minute meetings that may be otherwise hard to get. Visit www.wistechsummit.com to learn more and apply.
Broadband gets bipartisan push: A recent column noted several tech economy initiatives in Congress that have pulled Republicans and Democrats together to get things done. Those include the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which will help keep “big brother” out of your old emails and texts, and a bill to permanently end the ability of state and local governments to impose a hodge-podge of taxes on Internet access.
Another bipartisan priority is broadband. U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., was among four members of the House of Representatives this month to launch the Congressional Rural Broadband Caucus. Republicans and Democrats from Vermont, North Dakota and Ohio are among other members of the caucus, which will focus attention on the “digital divide” separates broadband “haves” from “have-nots” in parts of the country. During a recent meeting in Washington, Pocan said access to quality broadband service isn’t a partisan issue and shouldn’t be treated as such.
“Broadband access isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity,” he noted. The Federal Communications Commission recently updated its broadband benchmark speeds to 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 megabits per second for uploads. Using that standard, the FCC estimates 17 percent of Americans don’t have access to advanced broadband; more than half of them live in rural areas.
Einstein was right; UW-Milwaukee helped nail it: A century ago, Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves but the technology available at the time wouldn’t allow him or others to prove it. Today, an international team that included physicists from UW-Milwaukee has proven the legendary scientist right.
Einstein saw space and time as a continuum and gravity as a curvature of that space-time dimension. Like a bowling ball placed on a bed creates a deep indentation in an otherwise flat mattress, so massive objects like stars warp space-time. Their movement creates gravitational waves.
It was all theory until a 20-year project culminated with the detection of gravitational waves emanating from the ancient collision of both “black holes,” places in space where gravity is so intense that even light cannot escape. A team from UW-Milwaukee was involved in building the detection infrastructure as well as resolving problems in how to accurately read the data. In fact, a UW-Milwaukee graduate student was first to note the wave Sept. 14 at a detector in Louisiana. The discovery wasn’t announced until mid-February.
What’s is all mean to society? For starters, it will provide a new way to study the universe. One researcher likened the moment to the evolution of silent films to “talkies,” meaning there’s a new dimension to space discovery. Not that he needed vindication, but Einstein was right – again.