Written by Dave Nyczepir
TechCongress plans to place approximately 120 early- and mid-career technologists in key congressional offices to advise lawmakers on technology decisions critical to cities’ success.
The Knight Foundation has invested $2.5 million in TechCongress’s Congressional Innovation Fellowship to onboard experts in data science, computer engineering, and web design with the goal of having approximately 40 full-time positions.
TechCongress began the effort in 2015 and saw the Knight Foundation provide a total of $3.9 million in grants that sent 65 fellows to Congress, of which about 20 were successful.
“There’s a real disconnect between what’s happening with our digital and online platforms and what leaders understand,” Lilian Coral, director of national strategy and technology innovation at the Knight Foundation, told FedScoop. .
The scholarship was launched, in part, because only seven of the roughly 3,500 members of Congress had completed formal technical training in 2015.
TechCongress hopes about 40 of the 120 new fellows will become full-time, bringing the number to 60 in key offices it has identified dealing with cybersecurity, IT modernization, technology antitrust, healthcare and website problems.
Because TechCongress wants consensus around the tech solutions lawmakers support, it also places various fellows in Republican and Democratic offices.
Individuals can apply for the 2023 scholarship cohort from June 7 to August 10, 2022.
TechCongress also created a Congressional Digital Service Fellowship to help Congress transition to remote working at the height of the pandemic, and the body opted to make a digital service from home permanent in January.
The hope is that with 60 full-time technologists in key advisory positions in Congress, this will become the norm, and TechCongress could move on to expanding the technology capacity of other government institutions like the judiciary.
“The idea is to create an overwhelming amount of expectation and norm setting that the other [offices] will follow,” Coral said.