Garrett Johnson, the co-founder of Lincoln Network, has had a hand in both tech and government. Johnson previously co-founded SendHub, a Y Combinator-backed startup launched in 2012 which, was later acquired by Cameo Global; and served as professional staff to the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee where his oversight portfolio included immigration policy as well as development policy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Haiti. Having had experience in both worlds, he noticed there was a strong disconnect.
“I started to notice that there were people in tech who were interested in civic engagement and interested in talking about policy and politics but there was really no opportunities to do that,” says Johnson.
From that discovery, the Lincoln Network was born. It is currently the largest community of technologists who seek to advance liberty with technology and innovation.
Garrett Johnson (Image: Lincoln Network)
What does the Lincoln Network do?
Currently, the network hosts hackathons and conferences that bring techies and politicians together who believe in promoting liberty with technology. This is at least the start of the conversation but, it doesn’t stop there.
“From the happy hours, we did a hackathon and that turned into another hackathon in different places around the country—and policy discussions and events and conferences— and since then we’ve built this national community of technology professionals who are interested in getting involved in the civic process and generally who see the world through a more luminant government lens,” says Johnson.
In addition, Johnson and his team have launched Lincoln Deployed, a new initiative that matches technology professionals from marque tech firms like Google, Facebook, Slack, and other major tech companies to government organizations, according to a recent press release. The aim is to have professionals with full-time roles who are committed to advancing liberty come on as consultants. This way government and policy makers are getting the direct perspective when it comes to technology and the way it operates from a Silicon Valley mindset.
Government vs. Technology
There will always be friction as these two worlds operate on very different principals. “The two worlds aren’t usually talking on the same wavelength so the way people communicate in tech and the expectations of what’s possible in tech is very different from the culture and the expectations of how the government operates so, there is a lot of misalignment when it comes to culture, language, and communication,” says Johnson. “I think there is a lot of work that’s needed but, to Obama’s credit, he was instrumental in creating things like the U.S. Digital Service, the Presidential Innovation Fellows, 18F, so it’s absolutely possible.”
“The two worlds aren’t usually talking on the same wavelength so the way people communicate in tech and the expectations of what’s possible in tech is very different from the culture and the expectations of how the government operates so, there is a lot of misalignment when it comes to culture, language, and communication,” says Johnson. “I think there is a lot of work that’s needed but, to Obama’s credit, he was instrumental in creating things like the U.S. digital service, the Presidential Innovation Fellows, 18 Ave. so it’s absolutely possible.”
According to Johnson, the budget is clearly there. “About $100 billion is spent every year on IT. About $70 billion of that is spent on supporting legacy technology that the people really can’t figure out what to do with it so they just keep supporting it.” Hopefully, with the Lincoln Network’s initiatives, the funding will be properly placed and many of these archaic systems that the government supports will start to shift and change.
If you are interested in learning more about the Lincoln Network, you can engage here.