Reboot Congress 2017 Recap [1 of 2]

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On May 17, 2017, in the shadow of the United States Capitol, Lincoln Network convened a dynamic mix of problem solvers — civic tech innovators, engineers, designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress.

Because it is all too easy to deride the shortcomings of an institution designed to move slowly, Reboot Congress 2017 was aimed at celebrating those who are actively modernizing the first branch of government. Conversations didn’t skirt failures, but this year’s Reboot was about celebrating the tremendous strides being made in bringing one of the core American political institutions into the twenty first century.

Thanks to the support of title sponsor Democracy Fund, as well as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, Uber, and comScore, Lincoln was able to host impactful conversations throughout the day at the beautiful new AT&T Forum for Technology, Entertainment, and Policy.

The near consensus highlight of the day was the panel that kicked off the event featuring Congressman Will Hurd and Congressman Seth Moulton — presented in partnership with TechCongress.

This engaging discussion moderated by Travis Moore touched on the panelists mutual science and service backgrounds, the tools needed to run an effective Congressional office, best practices for furthering data driven decision making, the creation of a Cyber National Guard, the vision necessary to adapt to the rapidly changing employment landscape, Space, and other ways Members of the 115th Congress must understand or make use of technology to more effectively serve the American people.

As a direct result of the efforts of our distinguished panelists, and a further sign of the momentum toward modernization, the evening before Reboot the Modernizing Government Travel Act was signed into law.

During Reboot’s afternoon session, when the Members returned to the Capitol, the House voted on the Modernizing Government Technology Act, co-sponsored by Congressman Hurd, and championed by Reboot Congress 2017 participants Majority Leader McCarthy and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. This vote was another critical step toward providing a revolving fund for upgrading the federal government’s technology systems.

Door Stop Awards 2017

Lincoln and OpenGov Foundation were honored to present 2017 Door Stop Awards to Congressmen Hurd and Moulton for their work delivering sustained, bipartisan, and meaningful change in the most challenging of environments. The effects are felt strongly throughout Congress and across the federal government.

Our second panel focused on the problems of Funding Congressional Modernization. This brought together Betsy Wright Hawkings — Program Director of the Governance Initiative at Democracy Fund, Eva Pereira — Technology Innovation Associate at the Knight Foundation, and moderator Alex Kouts of Countable and Lincoln.

There is insufficient venture capital invested civic and govtech. The market is too small, and the process too slow. As a result, foundations are key contributors. Having thought leaders from these vital organizations provided a unique and invaluable perspective for everyone in the room.

Prior to the panel, Chris Nehls, Research and Systems Associate for the Governance Program at the Democracy Fund, provided an overview of Democracy Fund’s systems thinking approach to improving Congress.

Democracy Fund’s work addressing a variety of Congressional challenges makes it an honor to partner with them. Their methodology is especially compelling for addressing the problems of Congressional capacity, constituent engagement, and the establishment of regular and effective oversight of the Executive

Next to the stage were Representatives of Congressional Leadership, presented in partnership with the OpenGov Foundation.

First, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer discussed his continued and critical role in the Congressional modernization movement — especially the Bulk Data Task Force.

“Technology is rapidly improving the world around us. Why not Congress as well?”

We want to thank Whip Hoyer for his continued bipartisan efforts to improve the institution of Congress. The Minority Whip is a key figure in the process of increasing openness, transparency, and accountability in government through the adoption of innovative practices.

Following Democratic Whip Hoyer, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy took the stage. The Majority Leader began by discussing The Innovation Initiative. Aimed at spurring economic growth and modernizing government, the Innovation Initiative continues to push forward critical public policy.

During his remarks Leader McCarthy stressed the importance of making government data available to the public, as well as the desperate need to digitize the process of constituent engagement.

The Leader concluded with a focus on the recurring theme of the day; the need to upgrade the tools used by our institutions of governance. The US government spends $80 billion a year on technology tools, with 80% being spent on legacy programs. This is entirely unacceptable, and Leader McCarthy has proven he is willing to engage the private sector to incorporate tools that solve problems.

This week’s content was designed to express our sincere appreciation for the Members who were willing to take time out of their chaotic schedules, and for the sponsors that made the day such a success.

Please like, subscribe, follow, or share @joinlincoln, Youtube, Facebook, and Medium to make sure you catch next week’s content: The afternoon panels and Door Stop Awards 2017 Rooftop Party — a deeper dive for the technologists, staffers, and Congress wonks.

Garrett Johnson, Aaron Ginn, Al Suarez