South by Southwest – dubbed SXSW – is the annual technology, film and music festival in Austin, Texas. It’s a melting pot of culture and technology, part Consumer Electronics Show (CES), part National Association of Broadcasters, part Cannes Film Festival, and part Lollapalooza music festival all rolled into one.

So what were Feds doing there?

SXSW provides an outlet to both millennials and industry leaders, and government leaders were on hand connecting with the young electorate and gaining an industry perspective.

Take Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who attended for the third straight year. He sees the festival as a “connection point” between the tech community and policymakers. The congressman spoke on the Future of Privacy, but not before pedicabbing around the city.


Federal CTO Megan Smith discussed how ideas can become reality through technology during the panel “How Innovation Happens.”

A Google veteran, Smith knows a thing or two about innovation and the gap between the public sector and Silicon Valley. But Smith says that gap is closing, as long as Feds increase inclusion and diversity for their projects.

“In this country where we make Google, we make Amazon [and] we make Facebook why aren’t these people in government?” said Smith. “What we’re seeing is that they are beginning to come.”


Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) advocated for fewer regulations for tech startups. Focusing on privacy in the information age, he applauded Google and Apple’s efforts to encrypt their newest devices to protect users’ personal data.

“If they want to look at your information, if they want to collect any of your data, they should do it with a judge’s warrant with probable cause if they think you have committed a crime,” Paul said during an on-stage interview with journalist Evan Smith. The Senator also checked out some of the nightlifewhile he was in town.