Tech & The District » Obama Tech the way we see it: insights and musings on technology PR, policy and the District, from H&K’s D.C. Tech Team. Thu, 04 Aug 2011 15:06:44 +0000 en hourly 1 Technology and the Obama Budget Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:25:54 +0000 Ben Breit Several defining characteristics separate those that live and work inside the Beltway from the rest. For example, you know you’re from D.C. if:

o   Your trips to the Mall have nothing to do with shopping

o   The Washington Monument is your main tool of navigation

o   You put the Virginia-Maryland rivalry on par with Capulets vs. Montagues, Michigan vs. Ohio State, and Harry Potter vs. Voldemort

Monday reminded me of another annual event that mainly pertains to those of us inside the Beltway: you know you’re from D.C.  if you get genuinely excited about the release of the President’s budget proposal.

Yes, President Obama has released his budget for the upcoming fiscal year. He and his Democratic allies will need to gear up for a battle, as Congressional Republicans have already expressed their strident objections.

While the budget features across the board spending cuts, the technology industry actually emerged relatively unscathed. Indeed, the federal technology budget actually increased 1.3 percent to $80.5 billion. This is partly explained by major internal appropriations for cloud computing solutions, which is expected to eventually result in substantial reductions to the federal government’s IT costs.

Obama put his money where his mouth is, following through on several major initiatives announced at his State of the Union address. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the nation’s most prominent physical science research laboratories, is the eager recipient of an additional $100 million in appropriations pending Congressional approval. And wireless broadband was a big winner, as the Administration is officially proposing $5 billion to bring wireless broadband to rural areas and $10 billion to produce a national wireless network for public safety agencies.

Long a proponent of renewable energy, President Obama is proposing further investment in green technology to the tune of $8 billion. He elaborated on this commitment in his official statement to Congress: “We are eliminating subsidies to fossil fuels and instead making a significant investment in clean energy technology—boosting our investment in this high-growth field by a third—because the country that leads in clean energy will lead in the global economy.” Specifics include implementing three additional Green Energy Innovation Hubs as well as a plan to put one million electric cars on the road by 2015.

In his statement, President Obama was clear on his vision to bring the U.S. out of the depths of the recession: “a serious commitment to research and technology; and access to quality infrastructure like roads and airports, high-speed rail, and high-speed Internet. These are the seeds of economic growth in the 21st century. Where they are planted, the most jobs and businesses will take root.”

It’s easy to recognize the vast potential of the tech industry, but it won’t matter until these investments produce a tangible impact on the American economy  and – perhaps more importantly – begin creating jobs. Is President Obama making the right call by doubling down on wireless broadband and green technology? Post your thoughts below!

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Are you saying Ni to internal communications? Wed, 22 Apr 2009 23:18:53 +0000 Chad Torbin I was fortunate enough to sit in on a rather fine luncheon today at the J.W. Marriott and an even greater speech by President Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe on “technology as the holy grail” at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)’s annual Washington Forum in DC today.Plouffe addressed many of the key 2008 election strategies and like Chris Anderson at his keynote address at this year’s FOSE conference hammered home the same uber-message; meet them [your audience] where they live. A fairly uncomplicated message, especially given the times, but yet so many things about the Obama campaign seemed so simple yet one would be hard pressed to duplicate them with such vigor in our own companies or lives.

And while we hear example after example about how the Obama campaign leveraged technology to reach millions of targeted individuals in thousands of different cities, fund raise and organize, what I hadn’t thought of is how the same technologies – text messaging, facebook, video, and email – were used to push internal communications as well. While technology is credited with helping drive votes, it was also leveraged as a platform to make sure thousands of staffers were on message 24/7. That’s no simple task for any campaign.

While we’ve all heard of what a success it was externally, as Plouffe pointed out today it was internally just as big a coup as anything else. 


]]> 0 First Hand Account of Tech in the Obama Age: From the Campaign Trail to the White House Fri, 13 Mar 2009 20:35:42 +0000 Vanessa Truskey

A screenshot of the new White House web site

A screenshot of the new White House web site

Tech & The District is pleased to present its first contributing blogger, Liz Purchia!  Liz, a Public Affairs team member at Hill & Knowlton in D.C., left to join the Obama campaign in the summer of 2008.  She offers her thoughts on technology during the campaign and what it will bring to The District.  Enjoy!  -Vanessa

First Hand Account of Tech in the Obama Age: From the Campaign Trail to the White House

As a campaign staffer on the ground in Iowa during the general election, I saw firsthand the strong role grassroots organizing plays in communities across America, particularly in rural areas.  I was in charge of Muscatine County and when I needed to meet with my supporters and volunteers, who often lived 30 miles away from each other, I relied on the online social network the Obama digital teams built. outweighed John McCain’s site by leaps and bounds.  The Web site’s features allowed viewers to personalize their own site on (similar to Facebook), to join online groups with people who shared their same interests.  Groups like Sportsmen for Obama or Women for Obama grew to the thousands.  Without leaving home, supporters could post events in their community, call voters, produce canvassing lists.  I even had volunteers in Massachusetts using the website to call voters in Iowa, updating them on voting laws and encouraging them to vote.

The digital team headquartered in Chicago was supported by in-state digital teams that worked with field organizers to help complement their work regionally.  Based on our feedback and ideas, the site would transform to improve accessibility and ability to reach out to constituents.

No political campaign has seen anything like what President Obama did.  As the saying goes “imitation is the best form of flattery.”  His Web site is a model for others to use.  The campaign Web site of Benjamin Netanyahu, who ran for prime minister of Israel, is eerily similar to Obama’s.  I would even go so far as to say took tips from Obama.

From the first day after the election, a new White House Web site was up and running and completely revamped.  It’s as user-friendly as the campaign site.  There were full digital staffs for the Transition and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which was only a positive sign for what’s to come.

As a member of the Public Affairs team in Washington, D.C., I often monitored the Web sites of Members of Congress and the different departments.  Looking back now, others have taken a cue from the Obama handbook and are improving their sites. and are just the beginning of the tech advances in government.  Technology will allow the Obama administration to be the most open and accessible administration in history.

Grassroots organizing will always be a central component to political campaigns, but the ability to use technology and social networking tookfield operations to a whole different level, which will only continue to be refined and improved.

If the administration’s use of technology is done anything like the campaign, I have HOPE our country will turn itself around.

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Congratulations Mr President-elect! Wed, 05 Nov 2008 20:25:00 +0000 duncanburns After a long race and two eminently capable final choices for the American people, we now know who’s going to be taking over 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in January.

Many others have the details on how and why the race was won – and in no small part because of the use of recent online innovations in voter engagement, activation and money-raising. For comprehensive analyses of the race, check out the usual suspects like CNN.

However, for those of us wondering what this all means, the team here at H&K DC has been putting some thought into just that…

We have just published a preview of the President-elect’s agenda – click here to check it out. It includes our sense on what those of us in the tech space need to be thinking about. I’ve included our initial thoughts below.

Advancing Technology:  Creating a Transparent and Connected Democracy

Rarely does anything move as swiftly as technology – especially not governments. The challenge of adopting policies that can keep pace with ever-evolving technological advances is a significant one. Almost all American lawmakers would agree that it is critical to get the laws and regulations governing the development of technology right in order to ensure the nation’s leading role in global innovation and promote a healthy U.S. economy. However, opinions vary on what exactly it would mean to “get it right,” and in the new political environment in the United States, it is safe to say the Democratic Party’s opinions are likely going to be the ones that are enacted into law.

To begin, President-elect Barack Obama has stated his commitment to creating a transparent and connected democracy, in part through opening up the government to citizens and using technology to “reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks.” In essence, Obama is likely to apply some of the technologies he used during his successful campaign to the federal government. Hardware and software companies, along with consultants who can provide expertise to the government on how to achieve those goals, could find business opportunities to share their knowledge and products with the government.

Obama also has said he would create a new position of the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to “ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century.” This demonstrates the importance Obama will place on network safety and cyber security.

Potential business opportunities for technology companies may also exist with other Obama proposals, such as his promotion of health information technology, encouragement to modernize public safety networks with new technologies, and support for “green” technological advances to address energy and environment issues. In particular, a much talked about second economic stimulus package that is likely to be considered in the lame duck session or early in 2009 will almost assuredly contain a big infrastructure and environmental component, and technology companies should find good opportunities to work on that initiative.

However, it is very likely that companies will need to show a commitment to American job creation in their messaging to avoid scrutiny and possible regulation. As you’ll note elsewhere in this report, Obama has made it clear that he will take action to reward those companies that create American jobs and remove any incentives for sending jobs overseas.

Given the speed of movement in the technology industry, the political appointments at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Commerce Department of an Obama Administration will be critical

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T-minus 24 Hours… Mon, 03 Nov 2008 21:59:00 +0000 Vanessa Truskey

At this time tomorrow, Americans all across the country will be making their way to the polls (or laughing at those standing in the long lines if they are among the estimated 24.4 million who voted early), checking that oh-so-important box next to the name of the ticket they feel best qualified to lead our country for at least the next four years.

So you may ask, what is the feeling in D.C. today, around the H&K office where less than two blocks away, curtains will be measured, china chosen and portraits hung starting this January?

In two words: slightly chaotic.  Not sure if it’s the election or the fact that HBO is filming an upcoming Sarah Jessica Parker series on the street adjacent to our office, but there is a definite buzz around here – almost like the city is on a caffeine high.  Obama vs. McCain banter is higher than ever and everyone is chatting about their Election Night plans.

Outside things are just as other-worldly.  The popular breakfast/lunch spot across the street, Corner Bakery, has a sign posted that it will be open late tomorrow night – in case someone wants to make a run for baby bundt cakes and lattes while watching the returns? 

To top it all off, the Redskins are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in Monday Night Football tonight.  And so comes into play the Redskins Rule: if the Redskins win their last home game before a presidential election, the incumbent party held on to the White House. If they lose, the challenging party took over.  This has been true since 1937.  I can just see the Terrible Towels flying now.

One thing is for sure: I can’t wait for tomorrow.  And if you do nothing else of importance this week – get out and vote tomorrow!

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