The 2013 Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) Conference

The 2013 Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) Conference – The New Frontier: Policy and Politics in the Age of the Internet – addressed the growing impact of the internet on public policy decisions, with panels discussing online privacy, the use of the internet and technology in global development, and cyber security concerns.

Ellen Miller, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Sunlight Foundation, delivered the keynote address, touching on how the internet is helping to broaden transparency and citizen engagement with government. Through the work of the Sunlight Foundation, Miller is exploring new ways to utilize the internet and technology to analyze and distribute information on lobbyist expenditures and campaign contributions.

Stressing that technology is a key tool for making government more transparent, Miller argued that “transparency can help build trust in government among our communities, and that is an appealing argument.”

The conference’s first panel – Online Privacy: The Challenges Ahead – featured Department of Commerce General Counsel Cameron Kerry, Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, former Virginian Congressman Rick Boucher, and Microsoft Corporation Director of Consumer Affairs Frank Torres, and was moderated by Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Panelists agreed on the need for baseline privacy protections, and argued that standardizing protections would be helpful to both consumers and private sector businesses – General Counsel Kerry argued: “The Internet marketplace depends on trust.”

The second panel discussion – The Internet, Poverty, and Jobs – Here and Abroad – was led by Dr. Michael Nelson, analyst for Bloomberg Government. The panelists included Eric Weaver, Director of Government Affairs at Intel Corporation; Carlo Maria Rossotto, ICT specialist at the World Bank; Lee Rainie, Director of the Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center; and Ken Eisner, Senior Vice President of One Economy. In a highly interactive discussion, the panelists discussed the merits of public private partnerships, the growth of the “mobile economy,” and the demand for skilled labor in the technology fields.

The conference’s final panel – Cyber Security: Strategic Investment Priorities – featured Eric Burger, Director of the Georgetown Center for Secure Communications; Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Cyber Security fellow at the Center for National Policy; Paul Rosenzweig, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security; and Diane Rinaldo, Legislative Director for House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers. The panel, led by Dr. Matthew Fleming of the Homeland Security Studies & Analysis Institute, debated the merits of federal cyber security policy, creating industry best practices, and emphasizing the need to focus on the reality of how people behave. Professor Burger noted that “Tit for tat policy is not the answer.”

With the internet now affecting nearly every aspect of our daily lives, policy makers will need to continue to examine how new technologies are changing the policy toolbox – not only through new constraints but also through new innovative policy options.