West (Coast) Wing: Washington needs a Silicon Valley office

Two articles today from O’Reilly Media’s Alex Howard (US CTO pitches open government, innovation and health IT to Silicon Valley) and Politico’s Tony Romm (D.C. crowd’s path to Silicon Valley) touch on how the Beltway is reaching out to Silicon Valley’s tech community. Howard’s pieces revolves around U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Department of Health and Human Services CTO Todd Parks ‘DC to VC‘ visit to the San Francisco Bay Area, and Romm’s is more of a ‘Silicon Valley as political ATM’ angle.

As tech firms beef up Washington, DC, offices to strengthen relationships with federal agencies and legislators around sales, policy and legislative issues, it’s now time for Beltway insiders to be proactive and reciprocate the gesture.

The White House can host luncheons with tech CEOs and fly in for local tech events, but the only way it will grok Silicon Valley and its tech community is to connect in real life, understand what’s happening around technology and help translate that 3,000 miles east. As technology and social media become a mainstay in how government works, Washington would do well to open a West Coast office, soak up the culture, technology, innovation and help facilitate all this back to headquarters. With companies like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google (to name just a few) a stone’s throw from one another, there’s huge potential to bridge the The Great Gov 2.0 Cultural Divide.

‘West (Coast) Wing’ has a nice ring to it.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh and a strategy consultant for CivicActions and NuCivic. He can be reached at luke@govfresh.com.

4 Responses

  1. Great post.

    Consider this my vote for an office in St. Paul, MN for both Silicon Valley firms and federal agencies. We have a Ford Plant closing near my house, and we have 20% vacancy downtown. We could use more effective innovation and more effective policy. Companies and agencies on both coasts could use a lot more cross-country and a lot less trans-country in my view.

    I’m all for Silicon Valley innovation in DC, but I think the onus is on the companies to make themselves relevant, and that already seems to be happening. I also think that Silicon Valley gravitates to “hot new things” and caters to innovators without always watching out for the other 95%.

    Government needs to innovate, but it also needs to steer clear of that habit.

  2. Justin Herman

    The only cultural bubble known in America more than Washington, D.C. is the one in Silicon Valley. We could spend all amounts of time tracking how one relates to the other exclusively, which is for the most part an exercise in ego stroking, or work towards practicing what is preached and employing the best ideas regardless of whether its done in a suit and tie or in flip-flops.

  3. Justin Herman

    It’s a great post, Luke, and Scott – you’re right. The basic difference is that people look to Silicon Valley for the 5% or less of efforts that end in success we all enjoy, and often will criticize DC for even 5% or less of failure. There’s two completely different perspectives on what is acceptable failure, and while both bubbles have something to learn from the other its elementary to think the other could exist fully within the context of the other. Why should they, for aren’t we served better by having different approaches that contribute to a common goal? I think so.

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