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Technology Innovation and Policy Summit Updates

Innovation Summit

 

The Future PDX: Technology Innovation and Policy Summit with local government, community leaders and the tech sector is coming up in a few short weeks on March 13th and I want to take a moment to share the agenda for the day and provide some ideas on how success from any discussions might be measured.  

As I mentioned in my blog post earlier this month, this event is designed to be the start of a series of conversations with a wide variety of community stakeholders about the role of technology in the region. It’s also about finding ways to get all of the potential issues on the table with respect to emerging technologies while potentially providing some opportunities for startups and other tech companies to deploy their tech in limited pilots in different locations throughout the city. While we are starting with a discussion about things like new mobility solutions, telecommunications infrastructure (e.g., 5G, broadband, edge computing), data privacy and AI, there are likely many more topics that we can take up as part of future conversations.  To be sure, topics like facial recognition technology could be the basis of an entire event at some point in the future. 

Technology is a tool and an industry sector. As a tool, when wielded effectively, it can create a lot of positive outcomes. Tech is often a solution to problems of scale.  Governments and nonprofits often struggle to deliver services effectively at scale. As an industry sector, tech accounts for a significant portion of the state’s economy ($25B) and generates 1.35 additional jobs for every tech job.  Put differently, that’s a significant amount of economic opportunity.  

Now is the time to leverage expertise in both our community and the tech sector to solve problems collectively.  One of the barriers to this work is trust. The following are some challenges that the tech industry must overcome in this regard:

  • In the U.S., tech is often seen (accurately) as an industry where white males are over-represented. While efforts are underway to change this at many companies and in many communities, this is a long road. Any efforts by an industry to help the broader community—no matter how well-intentioned—may be received cynically, especially by communities of color.  What’s in it for the tech industry? Is this an example of exploitation for profit? What’s in it for the community? What about governments? Some observations:

    • Tech Companies and Startups

      • Talent is the lifeblood of tech companies, and the local tech sector is comprised of tech professionals who are civic-minded and community-oriented. As the tech sector continues to grow, tech employers are increasingly looking for ways their employees can get involved in the community. One relatively easy way for tech professionals to help solve community challenges is by committing time and expertise to build new tech solutions. Efforts such as these help companies retain and attract talent and generate visibility and goodwill in the community.

      • Established tech companies and startups often look for early customers that can help those companies test and validate their technology before those companies introduce it more broadly. When I worked for the City of Portland about a decade ago, we connected startups to opportunities to work with the City to solve the needs of City bureaus. The idea here is to connect companies with emerging technologies to public and private sector partners and the broader community in ways that can help those tech companies test and improve their solutions in “real world” environments. 

    • Government 
      • An approach to test emerging technology utilizing limited pilots in well-defined areas within the city effectively de-risks the potential for political fall-out from larger-scale deployments that do not work or that result in unintended consequences. The same goes for testing innovative new policies. Pilots within designated areas allow for an incremental approach. Successful implementations can be scaled over time. The results of these pilots can be published for the benefit of the community and other cities that are interested in the same technology or in addressing the same issues. To be sure, the City is already starting to rely more on this approach. Examples include pilots to test scooters and air quality sensors along transit corridors.

    • Community/Community Organizations

      • Organizations that serve different communities in Portland have the best understanding of what those communities might need or be concerned about when it comes to emerging technologies. The goal here is to bring together representatives from different communities to get all of the issues on the table before policy is developed, technology is deployed and, where possible, before new technology is built.

      • Organizations working to improve the community know what problems those communities face. The tech industry often does not. In some cases, existing technology can be leveraged by community organizations to reach more people with their services more efficiently. In these cases, it’s about matching existing tech resources with local organizations. When bringing the tech industry together with community orgs to develop new solutions, we propose an approach whereby the tech industry empathetically develops solutions in service to the community, which has the expertise and resources to define the problems. It’s also important in this equation that the community receives ownership rights to whatever new intellectual property is developed in this process.  This is the approach we took when we partnered with Kory Murphy, Bob Leek and Multnomah County in organizing the design sprint, Breaking the Code, where we worked with local organizations that support communities of color, local government, and the tech industry. The City of Portland and the Port of Portland also provided support. We will be organizing another one in Portland this fall.   

  • Most importantly, we need more opportunities to provide diverse populations the skills and access to resources they need to design and build tech solutions—as employees, but also as tech company founders and owners. We need to make it easier for more people to participate in all of the economic opportunities that the tech sector offers. 

Intentions are important, as well as outcomes that all participants can get behind.  It’s also crucial that the conversations happen in such a way that participants feel seen and heard in equal measure. Toward that end, the following is the agenda for the March 13th summit, which front-loads the day with some information sharing and design thinking approaches that all participants can use in the later interactive breakout sessions. This includes a keynote about what other communities have done (both successfully and unsuccessfully) in testing innovative policies and technologies alongside one another in limited geographic areas and a keynote that will address the intersection of technology, bias, and equity.  Before we get into the breakouts and interactive components of the day, there is also a full hour devoted to hearing from community leaders in terms of the issues that are top of mind for their constituents and stakeholders when it comes to technology.  

 

Future PDX: Technology  Innovation and Policy Summit Agenda

8:00am – 8:45am: Registration and breakfast

8:45am – 9:00am: Opening Remarks

9:00am – 9:30am: Plenary Session: Opening Keynote

9:30am – 10:00am: Second Keynote: Technology + Bias + Equity

10:00am – 11:00am: Imagining a shared future

  • Icebreaker (15 min)

  • Design Thinking Exercise: Semio Sesh (30 min)

  • Prioritization / Voting (15 min)

11:00am – 11:10am: Break

11:10am – 11:30am: Group Formation / Team Leads

  • Data Privacy Policy/AI

  • New Mobility Services  

  • Telecom / Broadband Access

11:30am – 12:30 Obstacles

  • What gets in the way of Portland advancing / competing in this area?

  • ID top issues / Prioritize which ones to focus on

12:30 – 1:30: Working lunch

  • Group Shareback: 5-7 min per team – top three obstacles

  • What should the mission statement for this group be?

  • Metrics: How do we know when we’re there?

1:30pm – 1:45pm: Roadmap

  • What are the key objectives over the next 30/60/90 days

  • First steps

1:45pm – 2:45pm:  Rapid Ideation Session / Effort / Impact Matrix

  • Crazy 8’s

  • E/I Matrix

2:45pm – 3:00pm: Coffee Break

3:00pm – 3:30pm: Position Paper Draft

  • Team Leads carry Mission / Metrics / High Impact concepts and adapt into a template

  • Vote

3:30pm – 3:45pm: Wrap up + Next Steps

  • Align on goals for each of the groups

The challenges and opportunities that we’ll discuss at the Summit on March 13th are not unique. However, our collective success in any future projects or experiments with policy or technology will ultimately be measured in how attuned any solutions are to the needs defined by  Portlanders—every one of us.

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