Indiana law is fast having ‘definite negative impact’ on tech

As it loses sponsors, organizers of Big Data event want lawmakers to make correction

Indiana protest over religious freedom law
REUTERS/Nate Chute

Organizers of the upcoming Indy Big Data Conference are feeling the impact of the tech industry's anger over Indiana's new "religious freedom" law and want state lawmakers to correct the law -- quickly.

The Indy Big Data conference, set for May 7 and designed to focus on "mining big data for big profits," has been losing sponsors in flurry of activity.

"Over the past 48 hours we have had seven national sponsors back out of the Indy Big Data Conference 2015 as a direct result of the Religious Freedom Act," said Christine Van Marter, the CEO of Conference Ventures, in an email statement. "This law is having an immediate and definite negative impact on technology in the state of Indiana."

Conference Ventures is the organizer of the conference.

Firms that have pulled out, either as sponsors or speakers or both, include Oracle, Cloudera, EMC, Hortonworks, Pivotal, Platfora and Isilom.

Firms still in the conference -- at least for now -- include Amazon Web Services.

Indiana tech by the numbers

Total in computer/math jobs 49197
Total information systems companies 5828
Total employees at information systems companies 56047
Source: Esri 2014 Updated Demographics; Dun & Bradstreet, Inc.

"The Indy Big Data Conference wants lawmakers in the state of Indiana to know and acknowledge that this is a real case that is happening now, not a conference to be impacted months or years from now, and is calling for an immediate correction to this law in order to prohibit discrimination in Indiana on any grounds," said Van Marter.

The law is drawing much criticism from tech vendors, who have corporate policies that emphasize equality. They say that Indiana's law is wrong, unwelcoming, and will hurt their ability to retain and recruit workers in that state.

Critics say the measure, which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Pence last week, say it will allow a business owner to deny services to someone and cite religious grounds as the legal justification for doing so.

The turn for the event appears to have begun on Saturday, when Alan Saldich, vice president of marketing at enterprise software company Cloudera, tweeted that the company was "pulling out of" the conference. The company's co-founder, Amr Awadallah, was one of the keynote speakers.

Van Marter, in an interview, said the law is "shining a negative light on technology in Indiana and that's not the message we want to send." About 800 had been expected to attend.

Percent of workforce with math and science jobs by Congressional District. Click map to see additional data. Source: Esri 2014 Updated Demographics; Dun & Bradstreet, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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