Aneesh Chopra (right), the first federal chief technology officer, with Susan Crawford, former special assistant to the president for science, technology, and innovation policy, at the conference.
Martha Stewart Photo
"Technology & Governance 2.0"
Belfer Center Conference Launches New Public Policy Focus at School
Author: James F. Smith, Former Communications Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Leaders of the Science, Technology and Public Policy (STPP) program at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center brought together about 80 of the nation's top policy makers and entrepreneurs for a two-day conference in September to brainstorm ideas for a new HKS initiative on technology and governance.
Venky Narayanamurti, director of the STPP program and founder of Harvard's School of Engineering, assembled government officials including Aneesh Chopra, President Obama's chief technology officer, Susan Crawford, former special assistant to President Obama for science, technology, and innovation policy, currently with the Cardozo Law School, and Karen Gordon Mills, administrator of the Small Business Administration. From the technology sector were leading innovators such as Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corp., Paul Sagan, CEO of Akamai Technologies, and Ian Freed, vice president for Amazon Digital Services — at just one of the eight working sessions.
The catalyst for the conference was a conversation between Narayanamurti and the Belfer Center's Dorothy Zinberg, along with Michael Klein, co-founder and chairman of the Sunlight Foundation - with subsequent collaborative efforts of a larger organizing committee. The committee members included Susan Crawford, Harvard Kennedy School's Mary Jo Bane, Archon Fung, Alex Jones, Tom Patterson, and Dorothy Zinberg, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science's Harry Lewis, and Harvard Law School's Jonathan Zittrain. The committee collectively defined the intellectual scope of the conference and shepherded the various discussion sessions.
Logistically coordinated by STPP's Karin Vander Schaaf and Tolu Odumosu, with planning input from Nancy Palmer of the Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center and from former HKS student Kris Clerkin, the conference itself exploited some innovative technology. On the opening evening, Harvard Kennedy School Dean David Ellwood engaged in a spirited question and answer session with the conference delegates from a room at the Harvard Shanghai Center during his trip to China. Internal "tweets" about discussions were displayed on large screens throughout the conference.
The conference examined critical aspects of the intersection of technology policy and governance, including net neutrality, looming technological advances in broadband, privacy and open government issues that could shape technology and communications innovation in coming years. A panel of Kennedy School students talked about some of their own uses of cutting-edge technology.
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and a researcher at MIT, gave a provocative lunch address challenging governments, businesses, and academic institutions to recognize the need for free online access to data of all sorts. He reminded the audience that there are "ten to the eleventh power web pages out there" on the Web — about the same number as the number of neurons in the human brain.
Narayanamurti described the goal of the conference as a "workshop where all participants will contribute ideas on how HKS can best educate its students and influence government policy on information and communication technologies as well as the global impact of ICTs on governments."
He noted that several Harvard centers tackle technology and communication policy issues, including the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Harvard Business School. "Our intention is to integrate the HKS program with these other efforts at the university," he said.
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
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