Heard on the Hill

Capitol Hill Not Quite Silicon Valley, But It's Trying

Hoyer, Takano are getting staffers in the loop on technology

Adam Conner (front) told staffers on Thursday about Slack. (Photo courtesy of Hoyer's office)

As technology keeps changing the way politics and business is conducted, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., are trying to get Capitol Hill on board, and they're making the Beta Labs briefing series part of their efforts. Beta Labs was established last year and gives staffers the opportunity to sit down with companies and learn how to integrate new technology into their everyday lives.  

"New online tools are providing members of Congress with innovative ways to communicate and connect with constituents," Hoyer said.  

"[The series] helps ensure that House and Senate Democratic staff are familiar with the latest digital platforms so we can continue to be as effective, transparent, and responsive to our constituents as possible," he added.  

On Thursday, representatives from Facebook Live, a tool to share videos in real time; Slack, an office communication tool; Esri, a mapping program maintained by the Library of Congress, and Sidewire, an app to help locate trending news and newsmaker comments, shared their wares in the Capitol Visitor Center.  

"It's a fun format, quick, with less presentation and more interaction, and great exposure for both the staffers and these new companies," Adam Conner, an account executive at Slack, said. At last year's Beta Labs briefing, Conner presented on behalf of Brigade, a political debating tool.  

Each representative gave a short presentation to staffers, followed by a short Q&A. Overall since last year, 16 companies have participated and up to 80 staffers from both the House and Senate, working in all issue areas, have attended.  

Some new companies participate and others are well-known such as Medium, a publishing platform; Eventbrite, an app to manage event logistics; Snaphat, a photo and video app, and Yelp, the consumer rating system.  

Other Capitol specific companies have also presented to staffers, including Capitol Bells, an app for real-time vote alerts; Cloakroom, an app for Hill staffers to anonymously communicate, and Popvox, an app started by a former Hill staffer that shares legislative information and organizations’ bill positions with constituents.  

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