Complex Tech Issues Require Expert Guidance

By John Olsen | December 18, 2023

Since I formally announced a few weeks ago that I was joining Statewide Public Affairs in Albany and helping to launch a new emerging technologies and innovation practice in the firm, several folks have reached out to ask me why. My career path would suggest I would be seeking opportunities on a more regional or national level. Why return to contract lobbying in what is arguably one of the toughest political environments in the country? It is a fair question. In answering it, I see an opportunity to share my thoughts on the importance of public policy in shaping innovation here in New York.

And, as a result, why there has never been a better time for this specific practice to be formed.

As a government relations professional who has been on the front lines of significant legislative battles around tech and innovation (both here in New York and nationally) for years, I personally know the need for knowledgeable, experienced, and well-connected advocates on the ground in Albany. Education and advocacy go hand-in-hand when dealing with the complex and nuanced issues faced by a multitude of tech industry companies, their users, and regulators. That education requires more than just the annual lobby day or some “key meetings” that make up a small part of legislators’ schedules. Tech lobbying is an almost daily grind. It requires patience and persistence when explaining the issues that impact an enormous ecosystem. These issues will only grow more complicated as artificial intelligence has become a household name and soon a household tool, as blockchain technology becomes as ubiquitous as Wi-Fi, and as innovation continues to pave the way for a more autonomous, equitable, and self-determined future.

Technology and innovation are intersecting more and more with all facets of life and business.  As they champion legislative initiatives, policymakers must consider the impact of new technologies on consumers, employees, employers and state revenues. Yet, they don’t always get it right. We’ve seen numerous instances in other “blue” states where tech-focused regulatory initiatives have sputtered upon implementation. In this high-paced world, poorly crafted policy can and has cost jobs, investment, and tax revenue, and has killed start-ups.

What sets Statewide Public Affairs apart is having a dedicated innovation team with lived experience and policy expertise regarding tech and innovation issues that are increasingly at the forefront of legislators’ minds and pens. Statewide can uniquely continue educating policymakers after their clients have left Albany. The Emerging Technologies & Innovation Practice at Statewide takes this concept to the next level with a one-stop-shop approach to consulting, retail and grassroots lobbying, thought leadership, and coalition building that is solely focused on assisting an industry for which political and legislative engagement remains a nascent endeavor.

Nearly every business in the state must now factor in a host of tech-related issues when operating in New York – having an advocate who understands those issues and who speaks that language is essential. From privacy to cybersecurity to new payment systems to  business decisions driven by machine learning, the regulatory landscape is increasingly more complex and difficult to navigate. The Emerging Technologies & Innovation Practice within Statewide Public Affairs is designed to deliver successful outcomes for any size company active in the tech industry.

John Olsen is the new Senior Vice President and Co-Chair of the Emerging Technologies & Innovation Practice at Statewide Public Affairs. He has served previously as New York State Lead for the Blockchain Association and as Senior Vice President of State Government Affairs for the Internet Association where he represented global internet and blockchain companies before state and local governments throughout the United States for nearly a decade.

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