This year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival saw the convergence of technology and government as D.C. came to Austin with several messages in tow. Through sessions addressing big data, policy, transparency, and accountability, SXSW 2015 fanned the flames of collaboration between the public and private sectors. Here are six takeaways on how technology and government can work together for the common good.
Retooling systems and federal policies will allow government to fuel innovation
It’s been noted by many in the Tech world that red tape and endless labyrinths of policy have partially stifled innovation and growth. From small start-ups to Tech giants, most–if not all–are held to the same standards of government compliance, diverting time and energy from advancing new ideas to traversing cumbersome mandates. During the session “Move Fast, Government, or Get Out of the Way,” Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker outlined how the government is adapting to the pace of technology by retooling the patent system and developing policy that can fuel, not slow, innovation.
Comprehensive systems of public data should be used to enhance government accountability and empower citizens
When measuring advances in data and technology against governmental responses to these shifting trends, significant gaps emerge. One such concern is the government’s ability to manage data in a transparent manner–a topic tackled during “Your Laws, Your Data: Making Government More Open.” There, policy analysts discussed how to create a more open and comprehensive public data system and how better data can empower citizens.
Policymakers and Tech leaders must become more equitable partners in order to properly manage innovation’s changing landscape
The exploration of unchartered technological waters has signaled an exciting era for American innovation, but government oversight has had trouble keeping up. Considering 21st century issues such as Internet privacy, patent reform, capital access, and cyber security, lawmakers and tech leaders converged at “Politics of Innovation: DC, Tech Working Together.” Moderated by Engine, a non-profit that connects government and startups, participants examined the challenges Congress faces in protecting citizens and fair competition.
The Internet, if utilized correctly by government, can produce more responsive capabilities and stronger communities
From the days of dial-up to high-speed wifi, the union between Internet and government operations has grown over the years. However, there are growing concerns about the sustainability of this relationship. In “Real Talk About Civic Tech,” panelists addressed both sides of the coin: Does Civic Tech create a more responsive government or simply widen the digital gap? The group also dissected past approaches to understand what works, what doesn’t, and what should happen next.
A tweet and post from government can do wonders for bridging gaps
Whether posting Instagram selfies or tweeting pithy one-liners, politicians from both sides of the aisle are embracing social media. If you’re curious about what’s happening at FDA or the State Department, there is an app for that. During the session “Digital and Social Government Meet Up,” attendees discussed how social media is transforming constituent engagement as the next wave of government leaders use digital platforms to drive innovation and deliver on their mission. With technology, the public sector can engage citizens in impactful ways and collaborate to solve today’s toughest challenges.
Digital greatness is needed for a more efficient government
Ever had a site crash during a time-sensitive task or search a domain for something that just isn’t there? A website can be tricky and problems are sure to arise; but when funded by taxpayer dollars, frustration mounts. In the wake of the failed healthcare.gov roll-out or other government websites that come with high price tags and less than desirable results, citizens have rightfully questioned the government’s handling of technology. Through “How Government Fails and How You Can Fix It,” conference attendees explored the roots of these problems and their ability to affect change.
In short, effective government and innovation are intrinsically linked. Not only must the government update its own systems and infrastructure to maximize effectiveness, but it also holds the keys for spurring technological growth and innovation by deploying smart regulatory solutions. As Austin Technology Council member Grover Bynum stated, “the policy undertone of SXSW this year was a direct result of that insight and policymaker commitment to meet the true drivers of the innovation economy.”