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Launching the Congressional 5G Caucus

Reps. Susan W. Brooks (R-IN) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI) are passionate tech advocates, especially on broadband issues. Both Reps. Brooks and Dingell serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communication and Technology and together they co-founded the Congressional 5G Caucus.

Dingell backed the SELF-DRIVE Act to ensure the safe and innovative development, testing, and deployment of self-driving cars. She also supports policies to ensure businesses from startups to large-scale private and public funded initiatives remain at the forefront of innovation and technology.

Brooks has been a leader on broadband and healthcare tech. Brooks was chosen to be part of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s Innovation Initiative and co-chairs the Women’s High Tech Coalition, encouraging girls to partake in STEM programs. Brooks is also a 2018 CTA Digital Patriot.

Susan Brooks, (R-IN)

Susan Brooks, (R-IN)

What does being named a CTA Digital Patriot mean to you?

Being a 2018 Digital Patriot Award Recipient is an honor and privilege. I am thrilled at the opportunity to accept this award and redouble my efforts to support new and emerging technologies by working together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and other stakeholders to foster innovation and economic growth for decades to come. In Indiana, we are seeing accelerated growth in the tech sector thanks to companies like TechPoint and Launch Fishers. Salesforce recently came to Indianapolis and we are the second largest hub outside of San Francisco. We’ve also seen a 30 percent increase in software jobs. I’m very proud of my community and hope to see continued growth and innovation in Indiana and other communities across the nation.

Why did you run for Congress?

I was approached by young people in my party who wanted to see a change of leadership in our state. Since I was elected to represent Hoosiers in the Fifth District of Indiana, I’ve worked to represent their values and priorities while also showing girls and women that our voices matter, too. Having women hold leadership positions in the public and private sectors is crucial because all issues are women’s issues, and women bring different perspectives to the resolution of tough challenges facing the nation.

Can you talk about the Women’s High Tech Coalition?

Co-chairing the Women’s High Tech Coalition (WHTC) with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene is something I take pride in and truly enjoy. We host events like “Teach a Girl to Tech,” where we talk to young girls about pursuing careers in STEM, and “Women in Wireless,” where we receive an update from high-powered female leaders from the industry. We recently did an event with a newly formed group called “The Bridge,” which is a network of tech and political professionals shaping the future course for how politics and tech collaborate. My work with WHTC provides an opportunity to connect with incredible women and girls, and I always have fun and learn a lot at each of our events.

What advances in health care do you find most interesting?

Innovation at the intersection of health and technology is fascinating. With IoT, many medical devices are becoming connected. For example, diabetes patients can use connected glucose monitors and track their insulin levels on their smartphones. We are also seeing more high-tech and connected devices used in research and hospitals. I recently had the opportunity to see some of this innovation first hand when visiting IU Methodist Hospital and Eli Lilly in Indianapolis. I had the opportunity to watch a heart valve replacement and it was incredible to see how much technology was used during the procedure.

How can we get girls interested in STEM?

We have a serious skills gap in our communities, where we have more STEM jobs available than we do qualified people to fill those jobs. Currently, men dominate the STEM workforce and we need to ensure that we are showing girls, starting from a young age, the number of cool opportunities that are available to them in STEM fields. Young girls should be learning about robotics and coding just like their male counterparts. Policymakers, parents and community leaders need to encourage schools, service groups, churches and other programs in our local communities to emphasize the importance of STEM to girls at a young age to help foster a deeper desire of learning in tech fields.

How can we ensure our workforce is prepared for the future?

Today, access to a computer is crucial for developing skills that are necessary to enter and compete in the workforce. The digital divide makes it harder for students learning and living in communities across this country without broadband access. As more curriculum and testing shift online, we need to ensure students in rural communities aren’t lagging behind their peers. Similarly, schools that serve low-income youth need technology in the classroom. Business leaders can help to bridge this digital divide by partnering with schools to help students and teachers better understand the skills they need to compete for 21st century jobs.

Debbie Dingell, (D-MI)

Debbie Dingell, (D-MI)

Why did you decide to run for Congress?

Four years ago, I first ran for Congress because I believe in getting things done. While I know one person can’t do everything, it is my belief that one person can make a difference. My focus in Washington is building bipartisan consensus and shaping policies that advance the issues that matter to working families — from making health care more affordable and accessible, protecting and promoting Michigan jobs and businesses, ushering in the future of the auto industry, and protecting the Great Lakes. There’s still a lot of progress to be made, and it’s important that we have people in Washington who aren’t afraid to build coalitions and work hard to get things done.

Can you talk about the bipartisan SELF DRIVE Act?

We had a great victory in September when the House unanimously passed the bipartisan SELF DRIVE Act, which I was proud to develop with Congressman Bob Latta and the leadership of the Energy and Commerce Committee. This bill ensures the safe development and deployment of self-driving vehicles and brings us closer than ever to reducing congestion on our roads, improving mobility for seniors and those with disabilities, keeping the U.S. at the forefront of innovation and technology, and reducing the more than 35,000 deaths on our roadways each year. The SELF DRIVE Act is proof that bipartisan progress is still possible in Washington, and we’re optimistic we can get it across the finish line this year.

Can self-driving cars help the disabled community?

Yes. Transportation is not a luxury to be enjoyed by the very few — it is about quality of life and freedom of movement. This is really one of the most fundamental freedoms that we have, but it doesn’t add up to much if you don’t have access to services that can get you around. That is one of the reasons why the autonomous revolution is so exciting. Self-driving cars will bring mobility services to the disabled, seniors and many other populations who struggle to access these services today.

What innovation will self-driving cars unleash? How will it change Detroit?

Michigan has always been synonymous with the auto industry and manufacturing, and the next chapter of American innovation is here with the development of self-driving cars. It is so important that this technology is developed right here in the U.S., because this really is an international competition, and whatever nation comes out on top is going to be poised for success for years to come. Automated vehicles help the U.S. to remain in the driver’s seat.

How are you working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration?

We worked closely with NHTSA to develop the SELF DRIVE Act in a way that encourages innovation while always putting safety first. It gives the government flexible, nimble authorities to ensure automated vehicles are safe. Our legislation also requires manufacturers of self-driving cars to submit safety assessment letters to NHTSA as well as a plan to NHTSA detailing how they are addressing both cybersecurity and data security issues.

You are known as a bridge-builder, how can tech leaders better work with policymakers?

Talk with people on both sides of an issue. Know your audience and discuss, engage, listen and be willing to compromise.

Who inspires you?

The Pope. I am a Catholic girl whose faith matters, and his wisdom and compassion are symbols of how we all should treat each other and foster the spirit of community.

Cindy Loffler Stevens