Tech & The District » Washington, D.C. 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 “Tech in 5″ – Marcia Hale, Building America’s Future Tue, 29 Mar 2011 19:12:31 +0000 Ben Breit Last week, we welcomed Marcia Hale, President of Building America’s Future, as part of our latest installment of “Tech in 5.” BAF is a bi-partisan coalition devoted to bringing about a new wave of infrastructure investments throughout the United States. As part of her role, Marcia works directly with BAF’s three prominent and colorful co-chairs – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor Ed Rendell, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

BAF has several major policy programs (including energy and a National Infrastructure Bank) – not the least of which is technology, where they focus on proliferating wireless broadband and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Check out the video to hear Marcia’s insights on potential initiatives to accelerate innovation and jumpstart the economy. And be sure visit the BAF website for further information.

]]> 0
Get Geeky! Thu, 24 Feb 2011 21:33:26 +0000 Lauren Wilson Last night I attended Social Media Club DC’s social networking event called “Get Geeky” at Porter Novelli’s offices.  On the panel were two past “Tech in 5” guests, Frank Gruber (Tech Cocktail) and Shana Glickfield (Partner at Beekeeper Group).  Shonali Burke, well known social media enthusiast, accompanied the panel and Alexander Howard (Govt 2.0 Correspondent for O’Reilly Media) served as the moderator. The discussion focused on how we can use our social networking tools for better networking.

Key Takeaways:

  • Humanize who you are through your tweets and blogs.
  • Use your image to build your personal brand.  The same profile photo should be used on all of your social networks.
  • Keep your online behavior online.
  • Distribute substantive content  on your social networks to gain credibility.

One of the things that I learned is that not everyone  wants to be a part of all your social networks, nor should they!  For example, if you’re connected with someone on Twitter, that person may not want to connect with you on Facebook.  If you have a business contact on LinkedIn, you may not want to expose that person to your more social  online personalities on Twitter and Facebook. These are key things that digital strategists should keep in mind when branding yourself online.

Did you have a chance to attend  last night’s event? If so, feel free to voice what you  learned in the comments section below!

]]> 0
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!

]]> 0
The Technology Industry: Paving the Way to Recovery Fri, 11 Feb 2011 19:53:09 +0000 Ben Breit This week, I had the pleasure of attending The Atlantic’s digital town hall on “Finding Work, Finding Our Way: Building the Economy & Jobs of the Future” at the Newseum. Those of us in attendance were treated to enlightening interviews and discussions with a “who’s who” of D.C. power brokers and thought leaders. We witnessed a lively debate on America’s place in the global economy – and how to get back to our pre-crisis level of prosperity.

Leading off was the main headliner, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Undeniably brilliant and fascinatingly complex, it’s intriguing to see him in person. Perhaps no man or woman in the country (outside of President Obama) is under more pressure than Geithner, and it’s evident when you see him speak. Every word he says is so carefully measured, as if he’s constantly thinking “one careless word could send the markets back into a tailspin.” Geithner acknowledged the uphill climb he’s responsible for leading– after all, eight million jobs were lost at the onset of the recession, only a million of which have returned. He was also realistic about the immediate prospects of struggling industries such as housing and construction, after effects of the “trauma” of the crisis.

But the industry leading the way through the recovery?: hi-tech. Secretary Geithner explained America’s technology companies are innovating at higher rates than ever – a bright spot in an otherwise bleak economy. And he said the industry isn’t outsourcing jobs at nearly the same rate as others. The top engineers in the world still gravitate here, he said – a trend that is helping the U.S. mitigate the effects of the recession. Geithner left us all with a greater understanding of our current economic status and provided a road map to spur further growth.

Reserved. Discreet. Apathetic. None of these words describe FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. He’s emerged as one of the more high profile members of the Obama Administration. The President’s State of the Union pledge to bring wireless broadband to 98% of the American population has put Genachowski firmly in the spotlight, while his pro-net neutrality stand has earned him equally populated legions of loyal fans – and heated rivals.

The always engaging Genachowski repeatedly stressed the importance of bringing high-speed internet to rural areas normally slow to adopt advanced technology. Genachowski said internet access is critical to farmers who rely on it to sell their produce and follow weather patterns. Businesses are rapidly fleeing small towns where high-speed wireless is unavailable.

Moderator Judy Woodruff of PBS asked how the U.S. stacks up against the world in wireless technology. Genachowski’s answer was to the point: “not well.” He reaffirmed his commitment to pushing 4G throughout the country in support of the “apps economy” – something he sees as a major growth factor. Genachowski was eager to discuss the tablet rise, predicting tablets will soon replace textbooks in high school and college classrooms throughout the country. As someone who not too long ago was lugging 40 lb backpacks from class to class, all I can say is “amen.”

While Geithner and Genachowski were hard acts to top, the ensuing participants offered some interesting insights. Senator Orrin Hatch (likely facing a conservative primary challenge) answered the question “is it possible to insert Tea Party rhetoric into every answer no matter the question?” with a definitive yes. He topped it off by recalling a conversation with “my good friend Jeff Zuckerberg from Facebook.” Maybe they’re not as close as he thought…

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell gave an impressive outline of ways state governments can engage with China. I was also intrigued by the manner in which states are engaging in intense competition for relocating businesses. McDonnell and North Carolina Governor Beverly Purdue in particular appear to be in the swing of a friendly business recruitment rivalry.

For me, the highlight of the event came in one of the panel discussions, courtesy of Safi Bahcall, CEO of Synta Pharmaceuticals – a successful startup focusing on cancer medication. He spoke in reference to Woodruff’s earlier satellite Q&A with students from the University of Miami (Ohio) and University of North Carolina. Literally every student who had secured a job for next year was on his or her way to a financial firm. Bahcall commented, “you know what I want to see some of these kids say? ‘I want to cure cancer.’ I’m pretty sure the world doesn’t need another hedge fund manager.”

And that’s the message I took from Finding Work, Finding Our Way. The current economic picture may be somber at best, but no country has more resources to dig its way out than the United States. It’s a matter of aiming big, not small. Bunt singles are nice, but its home run hitters like Chairman Genachowski and Safi Bahcall who will truly put runs on the board.

]]> 1
2011 Congressional Outlook Fri, 19 Nov 2010 22:34:57 +0000 Ben Breit As expected, the mid-term election turned out to be a sweeping and historic victory for Congressional Republicans, as they snatched 6 Senate seats and at least 60 House seats (plus control) from Democratic hands. House Republicans, in eager anticipation of Nancy Pelosi officially passing the gavel to John Boehner, have wasted little time in drafting an aggressive agenda for the 112th Congress.

Naturally, most of the political discourse since November 2 has been enveloped by issues such as healthcare repeal and the national debt. On that note, we thought it appropriate to put on our public affairs hats and address question that tech insiders from D.C. to Silicon Valley are asking: In this heated political environment, does the tech industry have any chance at all to gain traction on its core issues before the divided Congress?

Handicapping the Republicans’ play appears to be easy at first glance. Following Republican criticism that President Obama neglected the economy in lieu of an insular focus on healthcare reform, future Speaker John Boehner’s agenda is likely stock full at this time.  Indeed, nowhere in Republicans’ much publicized Pledge to America does the word “technology” even appear. Seeing many of its top allies getting relegated to ranking status (or in Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher’s case, relegated out of office) could not have been a pleasant sight for Silicon Valley.

Much of the agenda will ride on who takes over as Chair of the important House Energy and Commerce Committee, which regulates many technology issues. As the current ranking member, Joe Barton would appear to have the leg up. However, the broad nature of a committee that regulates both technology and the environment, coupled with Barton’s defense of BP CEO Tony Hayword, might prove a dealbreaker for Republican leadership. The Texas Republican is facing a spirited challenge from Michigan’s Fred Upton. Both Rep. Barton and Rep. Upton have declared net neutrality dead on arrival under their chairmanships. Still, there is a lot of money on both sides of the issue, so it is likely to at least get raised in 2011.

Alternatively, the issue of patent reform is handled by the Judiciary Committees. Here, the conflict is not between Democrats and Republicans as much as it is between the House and Senate. Senate Judiciary Members reached a deal earlier this year that was criticized by many in the technology sector. House Judiciary Members agreed and refused to participate in negotiations until the Senate came back with a bill that was more tech-friendly. The issue has been stalled ever since.

Since patent reform lacks a partisan divide, is there hope for it in 2011? Possibly. However, anyone who thinks any technology issue – whether it patent reform, net neutrality, privacy or any others – has a realistic chance of making the 2011 Congressional agenda is probably being overly optimistic.

But is it fair to exclude this sector from discussions on the economy and jobs? A strong argument could be made for relying more than ever on technology companies during these trying times. According to a report from the Tech America Foundation, the tech industry has begun its climb out of the recession, having added 32,200 jobs from January-June 2010.

“The technology industry now appears to be slowly turning the corner with the rest of the economy,” said Phil Bond, the Foundation’s president and chief executive officer. “We have weathered the storm better than most. From its position embedded in every other industry, technology remains the best hope for driving robust recovery across the economy.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have had a focus on creating jobs – and understandably so. Perhaps Congressional leadership would do well to realize that in these trying times, it might be worth it to address the concerns of one of the few industries that has actually made job creation a reality rather than a theory.

]]> 0
“Tech In 5″ – Peter Cherukuri, VP and General Manager of Huffington Post Thu, 23 Sep 2010 21:49:38 +0000 Lauren Wilson Did you know that in the month of June, the Huffington Post received about 24 million unique visitors?

Hill & Knowlton had the opportunity to sit down with Peter Cherukuri, Vice President and General Manager of the Huffington Post.  Peter shares with us how the Huffington Post differentiates itself from other outlets and the people who make the organization a success. He also gives us a sneak peek on where we can catch him for lunch.  Start adding the Bombay Club and BLT Steak to your list!

]]> 3
On The Agenda Mon, 23 Aug 2010 21:23:16 +0000 Lauren Wilson As the summer is coming to an end, take advantage of the last relatively slow-paced days to attend one of these upcoming technology events. These events cover various branches of your online presence and will surely teach you something new!

By Sara Hiller (Tech Intern)

]]> 0
On The Agenda Tue, 27 Jul 2010 21:35:38 +0000 Lauren Wilson August may be slow in the District, but summer tech events are not slowing down. If you need a way to escape the heat and learn something new, these events will provide just what you are looking for.

  • August 2- Tech@State: Mobile Money – This event will look at the “mobile frontier” and technology in relation to money and U.S. Foreign Policy. The event takes place at the George C. Marshall Center at the U.S. Department of State and will run from 8 am to 12:30 pm.
  • August 5- Mashable U.S. Summer Tour in Washington D.C. – SummerMash will offer excellent networking opportunities and social media learning opportunities.  The event will take place at the USA Today Headquarters from 7 to 10 pm.
  • August 14- Power Twitter: How to Make Twitter Do More in Less Time – Not up to par on your Tweeting? This session will get you up to speed with the basics of Twitter including who to follow, what to Tweet, and how to organize your Twitter account.  The event will be at the GWUL Community Conference Room from 10 am to 12 pm.

By Sara Hiller (Tech Intern)

]]> 0
Media Relations in the Digital Age Thu, 15 Jul 2010 21:35:43 +0000 Lauren Wilson Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend my first Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) event with the National Capital Chapter, “Media Relations in the Digital Age.” The event featured a panel of reporters which included The Economist’s Greg Ip, Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer, The Washington Post’s Ceci Connolly, and Kaiser Health News’ Jordan Rau.

What does media relations look like in an increasingly digital age? While there are definitely changes in the options we have available for communication, the overall message was that good reporter-source relationships are still the key to getting your message across.  As a recent graduate I was surprised by the lack of emphasis reporters on the panel placed on social media. When asked how public relations professionals can use social media to generate coverage, the general consensus was that some of their colleagues in the newsroom used Facebook and Twitter to find sources, but that it had little to do with their search in finding news stories. Other tips? The panel emphasized that the same good practices that existed prior to the digital age are as important as ever – suggest stories to reporters based on what they are writing on, and following the current news trends are key.  

I also came across an article on media relations by ReadWriteWeb’s Audrey Watters, which seemed to go along with yesterday’s event perfectly. “Why Press Releases Aren’t Always the Best Way to Get Press,” also addressed positive ways public relations professionals can engage reporters and journalists. The article mentions following reporters on social media as a good way to listen to what they are saying, but also reflected the opinion that genuine relationships are as important as ever. 

By Sara Hiller (Tech Intern)

]]> 0
Sweets and Tweets Wed, 16 Jun 2010 20:24:31 +0000 Lauren Wilson

White walls fluorescent lighting, sculptures and carefully painted pieces mixed with cupcakes as heavy as a paper weight and the most enthusiastic women in technology meant that last night’s Sweets and Tweets: DC’s Most Influential Women in Technology was not your ordinary social media panel discussion. The Hamiltonian Gallery hosted the event, one of many being held during Digital Capital Week.

Are there enough women in technology? Well, we wouldn’t be gathered in an art gallery, tweeting every word, if women were dominating this field. Sadly, only 3% of tech firms are led by women. Debbie Weil, moderator of the discussion asked if we really need a separate list of Women in Technology and the panelists all agreed that a separate list is essential to identifying where women in technology work and what they do.

The panelists also discussed how to advance in this field, the importance of mentorship and a brief mention of other countries that strongly push for women to have a presence in technology. I left the discussion feeling like I wanted more, which is why I’m anxious to have one of the panelists, Katie Stanton, Special Advisor on Innovation at the U.S. State Department and former Google Product Manager, join us in our Hill & Knowlton studios for a video segment on government and technology. Stay tuned!

]]> 1