D.C.’s Local Government Promotes City’s Tech Credentials

D.C. Mayor Muriel Boswer D.C. Mayor Muriel Boswer D.C. Mayor's Office / YouTube

WASHINGTON — In terms of local government management issues, the District of Columbia’s new mayor, Muriel Bowser, has had her hands full since she took office in January.

First, her administration has been trying to sort out the mess with D.C.’s problematic streetcar line, which has been essentially finished for months but hasn’t started passenger service due to various start-up delays and unresolved operational questions. (Bowser recently received some good news on that front: The American Public Transportation Association found no “fatal flaws” in a peer review of the streetcar line.)

Then, there are ongoing problems with a computer system used to dispatch D.C.’s fire and emergency medical response personnel.

As The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, the system has been malfunctioning on a daily basis, which is “slowing response times to their worst levels in more than two years and leaving dispatchers blind to whether they are sending the closest units to fires and medical emergencies.”

One family believes that the dispatching problem played a role in the recent choking death of their toddler, when a paramedic was called in from farther away to respond when another paramedic was just a few blocks away. Bower’s administration has initiated an inquiry into the dispatching problems.

Those management issues are not the image the District government wants to project to its constituents, not to mention potential individuals or companies looking to make investments in D.C.’s economy.

The District’s government would rather be promoting the city’s tech-friendly and innovation credentials. And D.C. officials have been busy on that front.

D.C. had a major presence at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, hosting events at WeDC, a D.C.-specific showcase house aimed at sparking tech company interest in the nation’s capital. The D.C. government’s investment in boosting its image in Austin was $350,000.  

Then, last week, came an announcement that the District government was partnering with Howard University to create the city’s first Innovation and Technology Hub, helping to leverage university resources to attract medium- to late-stage tech and innovation startups.

“Today, we are taking a major step towards building an ecosystem that will make D.C. a worldwide hub for technology and innovation,” Bowser said in an official announcement. “This plan will bolster efforts to support our growing technology and innovation sectors by addressing the needs of startups and entrepreneurs in the District.

Watch the mayor’s remarks.

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