July | August 2017


Tap Into Tech Talent to Revolutionize State Government

California Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon chairs the state’s Select Committee on Youth and California’s Future and is a founding member and co-chair of the Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus. He believes technology is a key driver for economic development efforts, and the state can help build the technology infrastructure and ensure the future workforce is well equipped for the jobs of tomorrow.
by Carrie Abner

1. Technology and innovation ar big components of California’s economy.
Why has the state been so successful in this area?

As the eighth largest economy in the world, California continues to invest in technology and foster innovation in order to ensure long-term economic prosperity and global competitiveness.
Several factors contribute to California’s innovation-based economy. It’s undeniable that one of the most important economic assets we have is creativity; we benefit greatly from the talent and expertise of a diverse population, which fuels our creative industries.
In 2014, the creative industries generated 1,447,100 jobs (direct, indirect and induced), $113.5 billion in total labor income, and $12.1 billion in taxes to California state and local governments.
Because creativity is at the core of economic growth and good paying jobs in the state, our economy requires that we sustain and nurture this creative activity. I am proud to support policies that invest in our future workforce—whether it’s through funding arts education or promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, it’s critical that our state continues to provide the tools and resources that will inspire the next generation of leaders.
The film industry is also a leading economic driver in our state and a multi-billion dollar industry responsible for sustaining over half a million middle class jobs annually. As the former chair of the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media, I was proud to support the growth and viability of the film industry here in California—home of the Hollywood Dream. In 2014, the Legislature recommitted to preserving our state’s signature industry by passing AB 1839, a measure that extended and improved the Film and Television Tax Credit Program. 
Moving forward, it’s critical that we continue to remove barriers to innovation, establish public-private partnerships, and embrace entrepreneurship in order to maintain and strengthen California’s role as the epicenter of technology and innovation.

2. What are some of the most significant changes California has made to its government operations as a result of new technologies?

Technology has revolutionized the world we live in. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, government has had a difficult time keeping up. Although each state department has a website that provides information and resources for the public, the internal government processes are archaic. That’s why my bill, AB 582, aims to help government function more efficiently by placing a proven business leader or entrepreneur in a state agency to help streamline and update their day-to-day processes. Other federal, state and local governments have used a similar program called the “Entrepreneur in Residence” and have seen significant results. Our state is home to some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, and it’s time for us to tap into that talent and help our government keep up with an ever-evolving world. We are currently in discussions with the Department of Government Operations to develop the specifics of the program. This is an obvious place to house this kind of program and I am excited to be working with them on this project.

3. What emerging technologies do you see on the horizon that could yield big improvements for state governments in the future?

Improvements on encryption for our servers and infrastructure will be of utmost importance. With cyberattacks occurring thousands of times a day, our state needs to make sure our critical infrastructure is safe from these attacks and we develop the kind of cybersecurity necessary to keep our information protected.

4. How can state policymakers help ensure that today’s youth are prepared for the
high-tech jobs of tomorrow?

One of the challenges we face is the ongoing difficulty of recruiting for high-demand occupations due to a shortage of qualified candidates. We need to spark interest in our youth to pursue tech-related jobs. Whether it’s computer science, mechanical engineering or any other science-based area of study, we want to ensure that our students have not only an opportunity but also a leg up on the competition.
Furthermore, it’s important that we recognize the role of the arts in our creative economy and that many of the state’s most important industries, such as entertainment, digital media, industrial design, publishing and manufacturing are in the creative sector. We have to provide arts courses in career technical education programs and develop opportunities that connect classroom arts education with real-world entrepreneurial experiences because the arts education is a catalyst for creativity and our innovation-driven future.

5. How can state lawmakers help increase access to technology for students in rural and lower-income communities?

It’s important that we prepare our youth—our future workforce—for success in a digital world.  In California, 69 percent of residents have a broadband internet connection at home, up from 55 percent in 2008. However, there is still a digital divide in our state and every student, regardless of where they live, should have access to affordable broadband technology.
Several years ago, the Legislature passed a bill that created the California Advanced Services Fund, or CASF, to support broadband infrastructure in the most remote areas of the state that still lacked high-speed internet access. In subsequent years, legislation has been enacted to authorize additional funds to provide broadband access in the last remaining unserved areas and identify grants for the deployment and adoption of broadband services in publicly supported housing communities using the CASF. Most recently, a bill was introduced which modifies existing limits on funds allocated from the CASF in order to continue the state’s commitment to help ensure universal access to basic telecommunications services.
The Assembly Select Committee on Digital Divide in Rural California has been doing some great work on bridging the digital divide, bringing stakeholders to the table, and developing policies that improve our digital infrastructure.
Additionally, the California Emerging Technology Fund, or CETF, established in 2005 with funds derived from conditions on mergers of telecommunications companies, has established a statewide broadband goal of achieving 98 percent deployment by 2017.

6. California has been a leader in consumer privacy and data protection. Why is this so important?

Given that California is a national and global technology hub, we should lead and guide other states in this important policy area. Achieving a delicate balance between data collection and consumer privacy is an important goal to attain. Understanding certain types of data collection can be helpful to the individual, but protecting the privacy of our diverse population is, and always will be, a priority policy of the state. 
Up until now, privacy rights have almost exclusively focused on the rights of the living, especially in regards to digital privacy. A recent poll indicates that 70 percent of Americans want their online communications to remain private after they die, unless they give prior consent for others to have access.
A bill I introduced last year, AB 691, or the Privacy Expectations Afterlife & Choices Act, creates a pathway for families to follow in order to obtain the information necessary to administer the newly deceased’s estate, and strikes a balance with the decedent’s wishes about which communications they want to be kept private. It protects the decedent’s wishes by prohibiting a provider from disclosing a record or contents if the decedent expressly deleted the records or content or an affirmative indication through an online setting expressed how they wanted their information to be treated.  

7. Working with your colleague Assemblymember Evan Low, you launched the new Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus in California. What do you hope to accomplish through this new body?

The California Legislative Technology and Innovation Caucus seeks to promote technology and foster innovation, support legislation that creates good paying jobs, and engage on emerging policy issues. From technologies that support social interactions and agricultural equipment that conserves water consumption, to renewable energy technologies that are redesigning our electricity grid and the latest discoveries in medicine, this caucus will be dedicated to educating the Legislature, as well as the public, about our state’s tech and innovation sector.
The caucus seeks to embrace and highlight the diverse tech industries throughout the state: the San Francisco Bay Area, including Silicon Valley, holds a dominant position as a tech cluster, as does Los Angeles with its entertainment industry and Silicon Beach. However, there are other pockets throughout our state that need to be nurtured such as San Diego, Central Valley, the East Bay, Riverside and San Bernardino. Opportunities for Californians to have high paying jobs must be created and sustained throughout California, not just Silicon Valley.

8. You are among a few millennial state legislators across the country. What new perspectives do you think your generation can bring to state legislatures?

My generation wants to believe we have a political system where we can promote positive change and an economic system where we can at least be competitive; that there's a level playing field even if we're competing with those in the top 1 percent. My generation’s greatest handicap right now is that college isn't affordable. Not only is it not affordable, but after you commit to getting a college degree, you're saddled with massive amounts debt and can't get a job that pays you a living wage to be able to pay down your loans and support yourself. I see the millennial generation being very similar to our grandparent’s generation, known as the greatest generation. We're not only concerned about ourselves, but about our seniors and future generations and the world they will have to live in.

9. How can state lawmakers use technology to better engage and encourage millennials to engage in the political process?

It’s easy for us in the Legislature to forget how important it is for government to respond to what each generation needs— and doing so creates incentive for people to vote. We should use technology as a medium for millennials to communicate to us what their priorities are, to register to vote in a simple, accessible way, and to hear from us how we’ve incorporated their priorities into legislation.
For example, when elected officials are active on social media and use it a tool to disseminate news about resources, events or legislation, it’s more likely that we’ll engage more millennials and help them understand what it is that government offers, how it affects them, and most importantly—how they can affect change. It’s also important to continue to keep up with technological advancements and stay ahead of the game. What’s the next platform that young people will be using? What will be the Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter of tomorrow? And there is no doubt that public-private partnerships and collaborative efforts with the tech industry will allow us to use these mediums more effectively.

10. As a legislator, what’s your favorite app or apps?

Twitter. I love Twitter because it allows me to see what's happening in a quick, easily digestible way. In my role, it's important to know what's going on in the world as well as what's going on around me. I also depend on it to help me communicate immediately with my constituency, so they know what I'm up to, and always know I'm working hard on their behalf. But I also like that it allows people to get more of an idea who I am and what I care about. It helps me remind people that I'm also human, which is important in politics. It provides direct access to their elected officials, which before didn't exist in politics without a scheduled meeting.