I am not an entertainment journalist.
So imagine my surprise when my editor offered me the opportunity to go to South by Southwest to relay to our beloved Tucson community the performances of the most up-and-coming bands appearing at what is, traditionally, one of the most popular music festivals in the world.
Well, lucky for me, SXSW has much more to offer than the insurmountable schedule of bands and music artists with tracks offering ideas on everything from making music, television and style, to tech, startups and virtual reality, to government, social impact and yes, journalism.
While the music scene doesn’t explode until Monday, we were able to cajole our way to access for all of the festival’s events, and that’s what yesterday was all about. Though much of the day was spent finding our footing, we did manage to make it to some enlightening panels.
Being the journalism and public policy nerd I am, I decided to pop into a panel on “Opening Up Government’s Vault of Data.” This turned out to be an appropriate choice since after I sat down I discovered Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., was one of the panelists.
He was joined by Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, chair of the congressional Information Technology Subcommittee, and Alex Wirth, a Harvard grad “whiz-kid” and co-founder of Quorum, a website that aggregates legislative data.
The panel was moderated by Rene LaVigne, CEO of IT company Iron Bow and an expert on the intersection of technology and government.
Much of the conversation revolved around the ineptitude of the current congressional representation to effectively use technology to create effective policy and maximize transparency when it comes to the drafting of legislation.
Wirth especially made the point that this is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to play a role in increasing government accountability, leading by example.
Though barely missing out on inclusion in the Millennial generation, Hurd and Gallego joked about how other congress members often come to them for advice on the constantly changing fringe of technology.
With a degree in computer science, Hurd said he could more easily identify the missed opportunities for Congress to employ technology in tracking changes to legislation and government services such as census data.