AUSTIN – The South by Southwest (SXSW) convention – which starts today – presents a unique opportunity for innovators to engage with government leaders and discuss some of the most important policy issues facing the technology community. Over the next five days, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and several members of Congress and administration officials will join technology and business leaders (including U.S. Chamber of Commerce representatives) in Austin, where they’ll participate in more than 60 “government and policy” themed events on this year’s SXSW schedule.
So which issues will be front and center at this year’s event, and what’s really at stake for innovators, entrepreneurs and technology companies? Here are three themes that will dominate much of the conversation this week in Austin and what you should know about them heading into SXSW:
Advances in UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) and driverless car technologies have garnered plenty of attention in recent years, and they will be directly in the spotlight this week in Austin. These innovations provide opportunities to improve safety, reduce costs, and increase efficiency through innovation. While it’s imperative to have sound privacy and security safeguards in place as these technologies continue to develop, it’s equally important for policymakers and regulators to encourage innovation and R&D in this space.
The U.S. Chamber’s Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation (CATI) has been (and plans to continue) organizing conversations public and private sector leaders to ensure that the immense potential for good behind these powerful new technologies is maximized.
Interested? Check out “Autonomous Vehicles Are Here. But Are We Ready?” “Texas as a Self-Driving Car Study,” “Future of sUAS Forum,” and “Drones Take Flight: Are They Ready for Prime Time?”
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The spread of smart, connected devices – otherwise known as the Internet of Things – and the wealth of valuable information they capture present a number of big opportunities, but also some significant challenges. From Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats to remotely-controlled pacemakers, IoT technologies have the potential to make our lives better and make our world more efficient. They're already helping us expand health care access, prevent car accidents, revive American manufacturing and transform agriculture – and in the process, they're helping us unleash limitless economic potential.
At CATI, we’re working with the users and creators of IoT technologies to educate legislators and regulators about these innovations. It's critical that those policymakers in Washington understand IOT's possibilities, so that they can find ways to protect consumers without inhibiting innovation in this exciting space.
Related: Check out the rest of our live coverage from SXSW Interactive
Interested? Check out “Innovation Infrastructure: IOT in Public Space,” “Smartwatch or Spyware: Considering Privacy and IOT,” and “Making the Internet of Things”
The Gig Economy
Often known as the sharing economy, what we’re really talking about are new technology-enabled business models that enable people to essentially rent items to one another via an online marketplace provided by businesses. Not only does this new model create new economic opportunity for both the consumers and industry, it has also sparked a subtle but notable cultural shift, empowering individuals and providing a greater sense of community.
In Washington, what’s important right now is that federal regulators and lawmakers, who are currently tussling over how to handle our ever evolving workforce, take the time to understand the nuances of the gig economy, why it’s taking hold, and what it means for the workers and the private sector. Only then can we craft smart regulations and labor standards that won’t deter innovation or reduce the quality of service for consumers. Our CATI team is working with business leaders and policymakers to forge solutions as this sector expands and evolves.
Interested? Check out “Law and Policy Fundamentals of the Sharing Economy,” “The Sharing Economy and the 21st Century Workforce,” and “Sharing Economy Meet Up”
Of course, there are many more important issues weighing on the minds of entrepreneurs and technologists, and we will discuss a number of them during a panel I’ll be moderating on Saturday morning titled: “Supporting US Entrepreneurs: America Job 1.” I will be joined by Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) and Phoenix, Ariz. Mayor Greg Stanton to talk about ways federal, state, and city officials can better promote innovation, foster entrepreneurial ecosystems, and encourage investment in new and growing American companies.
While SXSW provides a prominent forum for these conversations, the engagement between the technology and policy communities cannot be limited to one city during one week out of the year. It’s imperative that we continue the discussions that take place in Austin and cultivate the relationships that are forged over the next five days between technology and government leaders.
At CATI, we’re eager to keep these conversations going. We will continue to convene and unearth common interests between seemingly disparate stakeholders, bringing them together to pursue shared goals. At the same time, we will continue to tell the story of technology in our economy and advocate for rational policy solutions that can improve our lives and strengthen our economy.
To learn more about (or register to attend) the SXSW panel event the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Amanda Eversole will be moderating on Saturday, check out the event page here. For our full coverage of SXSW, head over to the Above the Fold SXSW homepage.