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Fri Oct 30, 2015, 04:39 PM

Martin O'Malley: 'We Need To Upscale Our People for The Information Age'

We talked to the democratic presidential candidate about growing the tech economy.

In an interview with DC Inno, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley said that Washington holds a responsibility to both provide a more tech-centric education to our youth and to encourage economic growth across the tech sector. He defined his campaign as a startup in itself, as their efforts have leveraged technology and other tools to remain lean yet effective and innovative.

On Wednesday night, O'Malley held his first post-debate event. His campaign team decided to take the momentum pulled together from the first Democratic debate to run with a civic tech startup pitch competition in Washington, D.C., on K Street at Microsoft's sleek Innovation & Policy Center.

And while O'Malley is so far the only presidential candidate to hold a pitch competition for startups among 2015 contenders, he is far from the only candidate talking about them. Just earlier this month, Republican candidate and Florida senator Marco Rubio spoke about the influence of gig-economy startups, specifically mentioning Handy as it related to his mother's old cleaning business.

The Wednesday night D.C. event followed a similar and successful one held in San Fransisco, an O'Malley spokesman explained. Roughly 80 to 100 people attended yesterday.

At about 6:40 p.m., as the sun set over the District and into Microsoft's glass-enclosed, 12th floor penthouse office, a series of early stage tech companies pitched their businesses to a packed room of donors, journalists, entrepreneurs and investors.

Arlington, Va.-based veteran-led startup Sandboxx was among those in the competition. Other companies included NYC-based Propel, the developers of an app that makes food stamp registration easier and smartphone-friendly, and Baltimore-based NewsUp, which has created a news digest app that will avoid stories you deem unimportant via mini quizzes.

After the pitch competition, an enthusiastic O'Malley spoke to the crowd about his vision for a new America that would approach technology as a way to improve the lives of underserved Americans, make governance more efficient and build the economy, among other things.

Several reporters were offered a chance to briefly speak with O'Malley after the closing commentary, once the room began to empty out. We asked O'Malley about what he would specifically do to encourage the growth of the U.S. tech industry.

O'Malley started his response by saying that there are several things the federal government can be doing better as it relates to growing the tech economy. And though he spoke generally on policy, the former governor of Maryland quickly shifted to the influence of education to help more people get involved in technology careers.

"First and foremost, we need to start investing more in the sort of new solutions, the research and development that actually creates new opportunities and solutions to human problems. Secondly, we need to upscale our people for the information age," O'Malley told DC Inno,"There is a tremendous amount of demand in the tech sector for people to understand coding and have some basic skills but we’re letting our kids down by not giving more of them those skills by the time they graduate high school. And then third, I believe that our government, especially at the federal level, needs to walk the walk. I think we need a new, better and more modern way to govern and get things done—with a common platform with data analytics with big data and with more personal connection to individuals that the internet and information age allows."

Our second question was: how does the national education system need to be redesigned to better prepare individuals for, what O'Malley described in a previous response as, the "information age."

The 61st Governor of Maryland said "a lot of education debate in the past has been about minimum standards and not as much about the sort of more holistic, conceptual and technical skills that our kids need in order to really compete and create and succeed in this era. So, the debate about standards is, I think, coming to a close. And what we need to do is to embrace some of these new models, like high tech high in California and other places that actually engages the imagination of our kids while giving them the skills to succeed and the ability to solve problems cooperative with others. And that’s an area that we still have a lot of work to do."


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