Dem Senator Cory Booker: Federal Government ‘Choking Innovation’

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said the federal government is “choking innovation” instead of creating an environment for it to flourish.

Booker, the former mayor of Newark, N.J., also said federal government rules and regulations on drones are blocking technological advances.

He recommended the government open up datasets to fuel innovation.

“In New York, you can get an app, go to any restaurant and get any health data. Why should that health data be the privy of government alone? So I come to the United States Senate and I’m like, ‘wait a minute, the reason why we empower lobbyists in the Senate in the first place is because it’s so opaque, you can’t get data.’ We literally, if you want documents from the Senate, they are on a format that’s not readable, not XML, you have to get PDF files. Imagine if we, just in the Senate, did what industry is doing, what local governments are doing, opening up and making it more transparent,” Booker said at the Techonomy Policy conference.

“When you want to do some innovations on the web, its easy for you to find the best innovators to help you do it. The Senate – just to get certified as a vendor, it is such a difficult process that if she and I wanted to do something, we can’t select from genius best minds. Yet there’s only two or three people that are approved to do that,” Booker added, referring to Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

Booker cited the lack of cloud technology in the federal government as a specific example of the government lagging behind the private sector.

“Government is not moving at the speed of innovation. In fact, we are light years behind. In the Senate, we don’t even use cloud technology,” he said. “The Department of Defense is in the cloud now but we’re not even there yet. So even within our own house we are so far behind.”

Booker, a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said the nation has passed the era of “e-government.”

“That was a decade or two ago. We’re now at we-government, where we’re finding ways to empower other people to partner with us, opening up datasets; what the public can do when they get their access to information to hold us accountable, to push, advocate and advance our society.”

Booker and Fischer, members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said they have worked together on a host of issues, including surface transportation.

“He’s just been a great partner to have and I think that will continue. It happens in the Senate. You don’t hear about it but it happens all of the time and I think it’s on issues maybe that the general public or the media doesn’t focus on and so the public doesn’t hear how we are able to come together,” Fischer said.

Booker said the technological potential of surface transportation in America, such as drones, is “mindboggling.”