It was a mix of Silicon Valley and Washington veterans at the Jefferson Hotel for the Washington Women Technology Network (WWTN) lunch honoring Megan Smith, the White House Chief Technology Officer.
Connie Milstein, Hilary Rosen and Tammy Haddad co-hosted the event with Karen Appleton, SVP Industry and Founder of Box.org. Guests heard from Smith, the president’s top technology adviser, about plans to bring technology solutions to some of the country’s biggest challenges.
“We have started a ‘cyber-sprint’…very quickly to audit everything that’s going on and make a couple really fast upgrades that we need to just fill a bunch of holes. … I think what you’re seeing is a real collaborative set of people coming together and starting to work together,” Smith explained.
Smith is also leading the charge to bring more experienced technology minds to Washington: “The great news is we have through…the Presidential Innovation Fellows and U.S. Digital Service…a bunch of rock star people who are at the top of their game.”
Haddad asked Smith to explain how she is attracting young talent to Washington: “We just did our first map hack-a-thon in the White House, and we were working on MapGive which is the State Department…The community of mappers mapped, in 48 hours, 150,000 buildings and over 40,000 kilometers of roads in Nepal to help responders. So this idea of the crowd and leveraging the crowd to get things done. …Mapping is important for so many things. …The reason I bring this up is that GOTUS (Geographer of the United States)…what does GOTUS want? What does POTUS want? George Washington was an incredible geographer and surveyor. We’ve always had tech. Washington started the Army Corps of Engineers before the country was founded. …We’ve always used technology, we just need to keep remembering that. So constancy of values…constancy of re-invention. …You can go get the American people interested…as long as you’re letting them come do the things they believe will be the right choices and giving them space. That’s why it’s important to make sure we have technical people at the principal level.”
Smith on lessons learned from healthcare.gov: “It’s really to the President’s credit that…the experience they had…to see the more agile way that techies work now…they’re like, ‘hey we’re missing this in the leadership and in government. …So that gave us the ability to establish the U.S. Digital Service which is now rolling out. …What we want is Americans to come and rotate through.”
Haddad asked Smith to explain what they are doing to get better Internet access across the country: “We have a project called Connectivity Deserts, which is where the Internet is missing. …One of the best things is modernization of the E-Rate program…the way Federal dollars are coming out of things like the Universal Fund. …There is this pool that can flow to different things. …One of the things that we’re adding into that conversation as the CTO team is finding tech people who are those connectivity teammates who tend to live in the vendor world, and having a few of them on our team…so we are informed by someone who speaks the language.”
WWTN guests included FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Didem Nisanci, Jen Kuhn, Kelley McCormick, Juleanna Glover, Holly Page, Melissa Moss and Heather Podesta.
Top government technology experts included Box’s Sonny Hashmi, a former General Services Administration CTO; Ann Dunkin, CIO of the EPA; and Christine Harada, acting Chief of Staff at the GSA.
Media was well represented by Betsy Fischer Martin, Jennifer Maguire and Kim Kingsley.
Washington Women Technology Network is a women’s leadership forum founded by Connie Milstein, Tammy Haddad and Hilary Rosen to include women in technology, media and politics.