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 Nuclear, Renewable, Gas or Coal – Who Has the Energy? Thu, 09 Jul 2009 19:43:46 +0000 Andrew Cuneo It’s hard to know which basket of energy capacity we should be putting our eggs in. While the Obama Administration continues to push the cap & trade bill putting a tax on carbon emissions, the Department of Energy, made a somewhat surprising investment in the research & development of FutureGen’s clean coal project. We also have other forms out there including renewable energy, which includes hydro and wind power, natural gas and nuclear.


Consumers and businesses alike aren’t sure where to turn. Both are grappling with trying to reduce their carbon footprint. New automobile technology, such as hybrids and electric, are still utilizing coal-based power plants for electrical charge. By the same token, businesses all around the world are attempting to reduce energy usage by installing technology. Google has a great page offering tips to businesses on how to reduce energy used to power their IT infrastructure.’s Matthew Wheeland’s interview with IBM’s John Lamb also illustrates what companies can, and in some cases are, doing to effectively “green their IT.”


But what’s the real answer? The nation’s current position is not sustainable and, as Forbes blogger Rich Karlgaard points out, the U.S. currently receives 88 percent of its electricity generation from coal (48.9 percent), natural gas (20) and nuclear (19.3). Renewable energy came in at under 10 percent with seven percent in hydro alone.


What is amazing is that nearly half of all the nation’s electricity is generated by coal, which emits the most carbon of any fossil fuel. Businesses and consumers are using this generated electricity every day.


The other two listed in Karlgaard’s piece, natural gas (which burns 50 percent cleaner than coal, and, according to a piece in Dow Jones, is also considerably less expensive than oil) and nuclear (emits zero green house gases) are both domestic and environmentally friendlier.


Obama’s support for the clean coal project is admirable and my first inclination is to be excited about the emphasis the current administration is placing on these technological advances. But the likelihood of anything being ready in the near future is very slim – some are saying 15 years.  We just can’t wait that long.


What we do know now is the country is placing emphasis on both conservation of current sources, and the development of sustainable energy sources. Whether it’s the drilling for natural gas or the development of renewable and nuclear energy, all will play an increasing role in powering homes, offices, automobiles and even cities from now into the foreseeable future. 


The research surrounding clean coal is exciting and cutting edge. To be able to utilize a domestic and abundant energy source to improve the air quality is a wonderful initiative. But we need an energy solution that will bridge the gap between now and then, or we risk causing irrevocable damage to the planet.


Which energy source would you advocate if you were in Obama’s place?


*Hill & Knowlton works with CASEnergy, Better Place and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) in some parts of the world.


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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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Open House Not Just White Noise Part 2 Wed, 18 Feb 2009 22:32:40 +0000 Saskia Stegeman Following up on my blog posting last week, it seems like more commentators are starting to raise questions about the Obama’s administration commitment to openness and the ways they are going about it.

In the FT’s Tech Blog today, Richard Waters questioned the White House’s handling of the public discussion around the stimulus package run on the White House’s web site, pointing to the complicated long-winded procedure for commenting and noting that it had the hallmarks of a one-way conversation because there was no way to see anybody else’s comments and more importantly there were no indications about how the comments got read, processed and ultimately what will get done with them.

In the New York Times Bits Blog on Tuesday, Saul Hansell, raised similar concerns about the Obama campaign engaging in a one-way conversation, focusing on the web site which went live earlier this week and was created to monitor spending on the stimulus package, proclaiming itself to be “…the main vehicle to provide each and every citizen with the ability to monitor the progress of the recovery.”

As Hansell notes, creating a meaningful track and response system is extremely complicated.  New media is generating interesting new opportunities for public engagement in politics but managing those conversations, filtering them and acting on them so that they become meaningful is challenging.  In many ways this is still a developing terrain since the explosive growth in social networking and other web 2.0 tools is a recent phenomenon.

The Obama administration has the potential to be pioneers in this area but if they really want to break new ground they have to innovate and develop tools that promote real dialogue and openness. If they fail to do so, their efforts in this area will lose credibility and will mainly be seen as propaganda tools.

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Week in Events: January 12-18, 2009 Mon, 12 Jan 2009 23:01:00 +0000 Sharla Lane In honor of the 44th
President of the United States, this week’s events are politically
charged. A cyber security breakfast chat and an evening at Macy’s
observing a fashion show inspired by Inauguration Day are just two
examples of how Obamarama has taken over the city. If you know of
something else going on that you think should be on this list, feel
free to add it in your comment to this blog.

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Fine Tuning the Tech Market Wed, 19 Nov 2008 18:36:00 +0000 Sharla Lane Today,
the Big Three of the auto industry faced Washington, but changes are
reaching far beyond the lines of one business area. Just as the auto
and banking industries have felt the economic crunch, tech companies
from blue chip to Web 2.0 have been appearing in headlines with talk of
mergers, closures and even new business ventures in hopes of riding out
the slump.

Here are a few changes in the tech landscape since Election Day:

what does it all mean? In a thriving economy, companies that may have
had inferior services or products were able to exist and live off the
surplus in capital. Now that funds are limited, consumers are cutting
back spending. Perhaps we can look to lessons learned from the ever
decreasing value of the Big Three in the auto industry and apply them
to the tech space.

we will only get the best of the best mobile service, laptops, and
innovation, including a phase out of poorly crafted Web sites in an
overpopulated Internet space. One result could be leniency in regulation, permitting larger companies to push out competition and raise prices.

Either way, as we approach the holiday season, NPR warned me last week
to not be surprised when I hear an influx of commercials announcing
layaway options rather than in-store credit card offers… so put away
your plastic and start saving those pennies the good ol’ fashioned way!

(Note: H&K works in some parts of the world with Verizon Business, Yahoo!, Microsoft and MGM.)

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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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Week in Events: November 3-9, 2008 Mon, 03 Nov 2008 20:09:00 +0000 duncanburns We’re finally here:  election week.  McCain and Obama duke it out in what may officially be called the last round of a tumultuous campaign year.  The only thing more certain than whom the leading candidates will be casting their vote for come election day is the significance of this defining moment in American politics and technology.  Also look out for:

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