Superscripts: The Austin Tech Alliance

Welcome to Superscripts, a bi-weekly summary column of past episodes of Everyday Superhumans. Each entry will cover the highlights of each episode and transcribe them into bite sized bits of superhuman inspiration for you to have on hand.

At the corner of the Austin tech scene and government sits the Austin Tech Alliance. The Austin Tech Alliance, or ATA for short, is on a mission to get coders, designers, and entrepreneurs in the Austin tech scene politically aware of how the government affects their everyday life. With programs such as Tech Votes encouraging people in the industry to votes on issues that matter to them. The ATA also works on the other side of the aisle by providing technological solutions to bureaucratic problems. Beginning with the Paper Census, the City of Austin and the Austin Tech Alliance are taking a deep look into the city’s operations and providing digital solutions to paper problems.

Below is a summary of our interview with David Edmonton, CEO of the the Austin Tech Alliance. Click here to listen to the full episode.

How did you get involve in the Austin Tech Alliance?
David originally began as an intern at the Texas Capital during law school, and eventually moved to working with two Texas State Senators fulltime. Working at the capital gave him the skillset and connections needed to understand the Texas legislator, which proved to be very valuable for running a policy orientated organization like the Austin Tech Alliance.

What is the Austin Tech Alliance?
The ATA sits at the intersection of policy and technology. The ATA’s mission is to make a more civically engaged tech sector, through policy education and voter registration for new residents of Austin. The other goal of the ATA is finding technological solutions for government programs to make them run more effectively, such as the ongoing Paper Census.

The ATA wants people in the tech sector aware of the policies that are being discussed at City Hall and the State Capital and how the policies will impact their jobs.

What does being a member of the ATA mean for me?
Joining the ATA or working for a member company means you have a voice at city hall and the capital through ATA. If you’re a government employee it means finding better solutions to bureaucratic headaches.

What is the Paper Census?
The Paper Census is a joint effort between the City of Austin and the ATA to identify unnecessary or inefficient paper based systems the City still relies on. After the census is complete the ATA will work with the city to find the right solutions to help the City run more effectively.

What other programs is the ATA working on?
Alongside the Paper Census the ATA is working on a program called Tech Votes. Tech Votes is a group effort to register new Texas citizens to vote. The major obstacle for Tech Votes is that Texas is only one of twelve states that doesn’t have online voter registration. Members of ATA are encouraged to become volunteer deputy registrars who can help others register to vote in Texas.

There is also the Civic Engagement Playbook, which is published every election season. The playbook summarizes everything you need to know about the upcoming election, from how to vote to what each candidate’s policies and stances are.

When should you vote?
You should vote every election cycle, including the primaries. The primaries are often neglected, but are easily one the most important elections. During the general election people tend to vote straight ballot, which means you have a better say in who gets to be in office during the primaries than in the general election.

Is it true that Texas has a low voter turnout?
Yes, in 2014 Texas was 51st in overall voter turnout. We were lower than DC.

What does the future of the ATA look like?
The ATA wants to keep on pushing forward with their current programs, and get more people on both sides involved with the ATA. There are also a few secret projects they’re working on.

What’s the best part about working with the ATA?
David loves being able to give the tech sector a voice. A lot of people in the tech sector are too busy working or building a company that they don’t have the time to be civically engaged full time, so the ATA takes that burden off of them.

If ATA could be a superhero, what would their superhero name be and what’s their power?
Listen to find out!