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digibyte - Big Data conference hit by Indiana's new discrimination law as sponsors bail out

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan March 30, 2015
The Indy Big Data conference has seen sponsors, including Oracle and EMC, jump ship because of Indiana's new bigots charter.

Indy Big Data
Sponsor impact

If Governor Pence still needs an early warning of the impact of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) on his state’s economic prospects, he need look no further than the Indy Big Data conference as tech sponsors distance themselves from Indiana's new law.

The May 7 event is planned to be a high profile conference, backed by the likes of Oracle, EMC, Cloudera and Amazon Web Services among others, and exactly the kind of event needed to pitch Indiana as a hi-tech investment destination.

But over the past few days, since the RFRA controversy kicked off, major sponsors have backed away, citing the discriminatory legislation as the reason. EMC and Cloudera were first to go, followed by the likes of Pivotal.

Yesterday Oracle also jumped ship, adding its considerable weight to the defectors list. That list of drop-outs prompted the conference organisers to issue their own call for Pence to take immediate action to redress the situation.

On the Indy Big Data Facebook page, the organisers said:

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. This law is having an immediate and definite negative impact on technology in the state of Indiana.

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.

Of the most well-known sponsors, only Information Builders remains, after Amazon Web Services also announced on Tuesday that it would no longer be participating in the conference. Sponsorship packages range from $5000 up to $30,000.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff had already cancelled all planned events and activities relating to Exact Target in Indiana.

My take

Ironically the conference strap line reads:

Mining Big Data for Big Profits

The fuss over RFRA must unfortunately have economic implications for the blameless organisers of this event. I feel sorry they've been caught in the crossfire here.

Credit to them for speaking out yesterday, a day on which front runners to be the Republican candidate at the next US Presidential election were falling over themselves to endorse Indiana’s new law.

How many more Indiana business ventures are going to find themselves caught up in this state-inflicted mess?

Disclosure: at time of writing, Oracle and Salesforce are premier partners of diginomica. 

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