A former US congressional staffer has created a campaign to put people with technology backgrounds in a position to work with US lawmakers.
The Tech Congress fellowship would put people with backgrounds in computer science and engineering on Capitol Hill working with members of congress and congressional committees to help explain complex technologies and policy issues.
Travis Moore, founder of the project and a former legislative director for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), said the initiative was born from watching members of congress struggle to both use and understand emerging technologies in an environment where just three out of 12,000 staffers had a computer science or engineering background.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about the institution and how it is and isn't modernizing," Moore told The Register.
"There were times when I had technology questions and I didn't feel there was someone I could go to for honest, non-advocacy based feedback on issues."
To address it, Moore drew on the fellowship model used by groups such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in creating the Tech Congress program. Designed to be non-partisan, Tech Congress will seek to give congress sources of expertise on areas such as surveillance or privacy not backed by lobbyist groups.
Under the program, fellows will spend nine months working with a member of congress or committees of their choice with the aim of providing guidance and education on technological issues. The organization will look to partner with universities such as Harvard, UC Berkeley, and Georgia Tech to recruit for the fellowship positions.
Moore hopes that the fellowship will not only help to educate lawmakers on technology issues, but also help the fellows get a better understanding of the inner workings of Congress as they transition from the fellowships back into the tech sector.
He is, however, also realistic about the challenges faced in explaining complex science and technology issues to a group where some members are still struggling to figure out email.
"I'm not naive enough to think this is going to solve even two per cent of Congress' problems," Moore admitted.
"But as difficult a challenge as it is, we have to try and make sure Congress is up to speed with what is going on." ®