Bridging the Opportunity Divide

How Washington, D.C. Plans to Up Its Tech Game

November 17, 2014
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How Washington, D.C. Plans to Up Its Tech Game
Megan Smith is America’s new Chief Technology Officer. Joi Ito/Flikr
The newly appointed Chief Technology Officer aims to change the way our nation's capital handles data.

Ms. Smith has gone to Washington. And now she’s calling all techies to join her.

The male-dominated tech industry has deep roots in Silicon Valley and therefore, a reluctance to join the stereotypical staunchness of government. But Megan Smith, America’s new Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in the White House, wants to change this.

“Working in the federal government, or state or local, is one of the most significant things that a technical person can do,” Smith says to the New York Times. While Teach for America has garnered a significant amount of post-grad attention, Smith states that far more people could be affected by tech experts being involved in government.

Smith graduated with a masters in mechanical engineering from MIT in the 1980s and has been hired to guide administrative information-tech policies and initiatives, which she states is staggeringly ineffective in comparison to the technical efficiency of corporate America. Hence the major call to the tech world to come apply their talents to government: “If you come, you can bring your own methods. The American government will be whatever we all make of it,” she says.

She heavily emphasizes the importance of making information (ranging from the goings-on at NASA to water data) accessible to the public and believes that substantial strides could be made by innovative citizens who could then utilize this information and revolutionize fields at local levels, or even through state-wide planning.

The position of U.S. CTO was conceived by President Obama, though, as stated by the Washington Post, “its mission has been fuzzy at times.” Smith is expected to refocus the administration’s tech goals.

Despite the absence of the tech world in Washington, Megan Smith remains optimistic, believing the change will come — even if it’s a step-by-step process.

MORE: Rachael Haot Revolutionized City Government. Now, She’s Working at the State Level and Wants Your Input

 

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