It’s fitting that Washington’s top IT administrator, U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra, would come out to Silicon Valley to announce one of the federal government’s largest technology initiatives - a cloud computing marketplace for government agencies that’s designed to reduce red-tape and allow faster deployment of money-saving, energy-efficient cloud-based software.
Kundra, in his prepared remarks at the press event, said several times that this initiative has the full support of the President, who has directed him to seek out the best, safest and most efficient technologies that can help government better serve Americans and operate more efficiently.
It’s about time.
After so many years of seeing tech companies go to Washington to either defend themselves to a confrontational - but not overwhelmingly tech savvy - committee of lawmakers or have their explanations of their technologies largely fall on tuned-out ears, there’s finally a ray of hope that Washington’s perception of Silicon Valley may be changing.
You see, Silicon Valley has more to offer than iPhone apps and tweets. Silicon Valley is innovating. The brilliant minds - from the engineers to the entrepreneurs - may have been laid off but they never really stopped working to build game-changing technologies. Job cuts and a bad economy suck but the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley never died. In the past 18 months I have been invited to more Tweetups and other networking gigs than I could possibly attend. And at each one, people are talking about ideas, startups, partnerships and even the funding climate.
It’s important to note all of this about Silicon Valley because the tech industry used to get dissed pretty bad in Washington. I spent a few years in D.C. and still remember the day that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) co-founder Sergey Brin came to town and was treated more like a tourist than, well, the co-founder of one the biggest technology companies in the world. And, of course, you can’t forget that ridiculous rant by Sen. Ted Stevens about the Internet being a “series of tubes.”
But I shouldn’t be bringing up old stuff. Let’s focus on today. There’s a new administration in town. But there’s also an unprecedented economic situation that’s forcing Washington to think outside of the Beltway… I mean, the box. So many other industries have come through town asking for help. The tech industry may be one of a few - if not the only one - that’s knocked on the door and actually offered help.
That’s not to say that tech industry couldn’t use a boost, too. After all, one of the reasons that companies like Google, VMWare, Salesforce and Amazon were quick to show their support for the plan is partly because one of the largest enterprise customers out there is the federal government. If the government embraces a long-term, widespread adoption of new technology, it not only finds some cost savings, but also pumps much needed revenue into the hardware, software and Internet companies out there.
And it even goes further than that. A widespread adoption helps introduce lawmakers, governmental decision makers and their staffs to a cloud-based way of doing business. And as the theory goes - as explained by Brin in the video below - if they use the technology, they’re inclined to understand it. If they understand it, they’re inclined to set policies to make sure that it sticks around and gets better.
And, in that sense, Silicon Valley and the tech industry benefits.