Politicians Talk Tech: Christina Gagnier, House of Representatives Candidate

Are parliamentarians behind the times or tech savvy representatives? We chat to global politicians to discover how they view and use tech...

Christina Gagnier

 Role: Currently running for United States House of Representatives, California District 35

 Party: Democratic

 Country: United States

You’re an entrepreneur and technology lawyer, why make the move into politics?

There is only so much we can do sometimes from the outside looking in on the political system. As a lawyer, I experienced first hand how the law being so far behind technology can be adverse to economic growth. As an entrepreneur whose company focuses on getting people on the internet, the absence of solid broadband and digital literacy policies is frustrating. In my district, the combination of high unemployment, the need for economic growth and the need to address the skills gap drove my decision to run to serve my community in Congress.

You have a very technology-focused background, what are your policies around tech-centric issues such as Bitcoin, Privacy, Startups, Digital Divide etc.?

Net Neutrality: Internet access providers should not be permitted to use their power to discriminate against competing applications or content—just as phone companies should not discriminate which calls go through, get blocked and receive acceptable levels of voice quality.

Patent Reform: We must work to ensure that entrepreneurs are able to build and create without the fear of patent trolls stymying innovation with costly lawsuits.

Open Data: We need to make sure that government data is readily accessible. There are many innovators willing to build useful tools and make good use of data for the public benefit.

Internet Privacy: Americans need to be assured that their privacy is being secured from over intrusive government surveillance. 

Digital Divide: Over 60 million Americans do not know how to use the internet. Millions of households lack access to the internet, let alone broadband. I want to make digital literacy and broadband a top priority by:

  1. Ensuring all Americans have the skill set necessary to use the internet and have the availability of internet access;
  2. Getting support for federal programs to support digital skills learning;
  3. Securing the adoption of a national digital literacy policy; and
  4. Leading efforts to support STEM and computer science education.

The lack of women in both technology and politics is well-known, what do you think can be done to address the imbalance?

I want to work to encourage women, especially our children, to pursue careers in technical fields and to create a more balanced workforce in some of our most innovative industries. I was extremely fortunate to grow up in a household where I was taught I could be whatever I wanted to be. We need to make sure all young women are empowered to make choices about their futures.

Are the US Government, political parties, and politicians in general embracing technology enough and in the right ways?

We have a long way to go, but there is a growing contingent of people in government trying to push forward the civic technology movement to make government and governance better and more citizen friendly.

Are you in favour of eVoting in elections?

It is important to find ways to use technology to make the voting process easier and to make ballot access easier.

Should internet access be a human right?

We should figure out how we are going to get to providing internet access to everyone and what that means. How we get people that internet access and what we mean by “access” needs to be explored and defined. It is a combination of both connection and literacy when it comes internet access.

What are your views on the NSA/GCHQ revelations over internet monitoring?

Our civil and political rights are of the utmost importance. The overreach and invasiveness of NSA activities has compromised our civil liberties and has led to further degradation of the right to privacy in the United States.

Are you concerned about the power/activities of internet groups such as Anonymous?

Power and activities are broad terms. Online activism can be powerful and get people engaged who may not have joined a political or social movement otherwise.

Do tech firms have too much influence in politics?

I think we need to focus back on citizen-centered democracy generally.

How tech savvy would you say you are?

Fairly tech savvy. I am a tech lawyer who works with new platforms all of the time. As a CEO of an edtech company, my job is to build and innovate around a tool that teaches people how to use the internet for the first time.

Do you use social networking for either your work or personal life?

Yes. It is has been a core part of my personal and business life for a long time.

What devices do you use to access the internet/conduct work?

iPhone 5, iPad, MacBook Air.

You are accepting Bitcoins for your campaign, but do you use them in a personal capacity?

When you are person running for office and trying to serve people and get them to support a vision, which includes getting small dollar donor support, that is definitely using the currency in a personal capacity.

Do you know how to code?

I certainly would not say I know how to “code,” but know enough to manipulate around some HTML. It’s on my “To Do” list.





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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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