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Collins, local tech executives talk government and innovation
Tech Roundtable 1 081219 web
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) speaks during the Emerging Technology Roundtable on Monday, Aug. 13, at Digital Ignition, a tech incubator in south Forsyth. - photo by Brian Paglia

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) stood in front of a group of tech executives and local officials on Monday, Aug. 13, and asked them to think about the future.

Collins was standing inside the office of Aevolve Technologies, a software company in the same building as Digital Ignition, the new tech incubator in Forsyth County.

“Think about who will be sitting here 25 years from now,” Collins said.

The District 9 representative made a stop at Digital Ignition for the Emerging Technology Roundtable, an event hosted by the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s tech executive networking group to discuss the intersection of innovation and government regulation. Collins was joined by Aevolve’s CEO, Rogelio Santos Jr., along with David Sjoquist, a professor in Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and Juliana Neelbauer, a senior attorney with Drew, Eckl and Farnham.  

Collins touted some of his own work in that field, particularly his involvement with the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, or CLOUD Act, that Congress passed to provide trans-border access to communications data in law enforcement investigations. Collins also pointed to his work on bringing together various stakeholders in the music industry to update copyright laws.

“Our copyright laws had not changed in well over 100 years,” Collins said. “… I said, ‘I want you thinking about how to solve problems in the future – five, 10, 15 years down the road.’”

Digital Ignition first opened in 2016, but it has made a much-hyped resurgence after the Chamber helped officially reboot the co-working space this past May into one that caters to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and the internet of things.

That’s made it an intriguing place once again, a place worth keeping track of, even studying. Scott Evans, senior project manager-technology with the Chamber, said Sjoquist and some of his colleagues at Georgia State plan to do just that. Georgia State will be studying the start-ups at Digital Ignition to see what can be gleaned about the economic and social impacts of emerging technologies.

Their emergence raises a host of questions, Sjoquist said. How many jobs will be replaced? What new jobs will be created? How will wages be affected? What policies would be necessary for a healthy regulatory environment?

“There are major changes occurring because of [emerging] technology,” Sjoquist said. “… All previous technology revolutions were a net positive. But they’ve also had negative consequences, things that disrupt.”

Collins sat at the end of the roundtable panel listening to Sjoquist, Neelbauer and Santos Jr., but Evans reminded him there was a roomful of “disruptors” at his disposal.

“These are some of the best minds available,” Evans said. “If you see an opportunity for us to come to a committee, we have this room and more so for you to take back [to D.C.]”