TechCongress to promote better technology policy making and leadership in Congress with $1 million from Knight Foundation

Press Release

November 2, 2018

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nov. 2, 2018 — TechCongress, a nonpartisan initiative incubated at New America, will expand a program that places technology fellows in Congress to increase government knowledge of emerging technology issues and inform policymaking with a new $1 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. 

Technology increasingly plays a critical role in national issues. There have been congressional hearings this year regarding the impact of technology companies on privacy, public discussion and competition. This most recently played out in Senate hearings, following the news that Cambridge Analytica improperly used Facebook data to influence the 2016 election. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees in April. And last month, senior leadership at Google, Twitter, Apple, as well as AT&T and Charter were called to testify about their approaches to consumer privacy. Several Senate Intelligence Committee hearings have also focused on election security and misinformation in anticipation of the 2018 midterm elections.

TechCongress seeks to close the technology knowledge gap in government through a bipartisan initiative that gives talented technologists the opportunity to gain first-­hand experience in federal policymaking and shape the future of tech policy through a one-year Congressional Innovation Fellowship with a member of Congress or Congressional committee.  

“The role that technology plays in our daily lives is raising big concerns around privacy, information dissemination and the rise of tech companies. But it’s clear that more expertise of how tech works is needed at our highest levels of government,” said Lilian Coral, Knight Foundation director for national strategy and technology innovation. “TechCongress is helping to answer that call, working side-by-side with both major political parties to ensure Congress gets better, faster and smarter when it comes to grappling with new digital age demands.” 

With new Knight funding, TechCongress will expand its program from six to 16 fellows by 2020, supporting them with training, professional development and networking opportunities. Through the initiative, fellows will educate congressional staff on technology issues, help shape legislation in this area, and update old practices with respect to organizational processes, technology, and security. Overall, the effort aims to grow the ecosystem of technologists in Congress and connect individuals working in government, civil society, academia and technology.

“The focus on big tech in the Senate has put on full display what I experienced for six years as a Congressional staffer: Congress isn’t equipped to legislate in the digital era without technical expertise,” said Travis Moore, the founder and director of TechCongress. “Technology is reshaping society. We hope to equip Congress to confront these challenges — from misinformation and digital privacy to AI and automation.”

Over the last three years TechCongress has placed 13 technologists on Capitol Hill. Their work includes a focus on issues such as election security, data privacy, AI ethics, the future of work, encryption, defense technology procurement, gene editing policy and autonomous vehicle and drone regulations. In 2017, two TechCongress alumni were the first two technologists hired in the U.S. Senate.

Knight previously supported TechCongress through the NetGain initiative, a partnership of five foundations committed to leveraging the internet more effectively to achieve philanthropic goals.

Support for TechCongress forms part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to harness the growth in digital technology to enable more informed and engaged communities. The foundation seeks to invest in strategies that increase responsiveness, connectedness and engagement to people through the use of technology. 


About New America

New America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute dedicated to renewing America in the digital age through big ideas, technological innovation and creative engagement with broad audiences. To learn more, please visit us online at www.newamerica.org or follow us on Twitter @NewAmerica.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.


CONTACT:

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]

Joanne Johnson, Communications Associate, Open Technology Institute at New America, 202-735-2837, [email protected]