David Chiu Bringing Tech-Savviness to California Legislature

The newly elected assemblyman wants to tackle issues such as sharable economies, data privacy and innovation during his time as a legislator.

by / November 20, 2014
San Francisco District 3 Supervisor David Chiu speaks at the Tumml Accelerator Demo event on Sept. 15 about progress to his "Airbnb Law" that legalizes home sharing in the city. Jason Shueh

With a campaign platform that spotlighted affordable housing, health care and environmental issues as priorities, one may think California Assemblyman-elect David Chiu has left his roots as a technology entrepreneur far behind. But as he prepares to take office in January, Chiu is keeping a close eye on a number of high-tech issues he wants to address as a state lawmaker.

The incoming assemblyman is a big proponent of innovation, open data and privacy implications of technology continuing its integration into peoples’ daily lives. In an interview with Government Technology, Chiu said that he’s also very interested in the sharing economy and how that will impact California in the years to come.

Ride-sharing and transit startups such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, next-generation housing startups such as HomeAway and Airbnb and similar companies are something Chiu believes will be front-and-center for California in the next couple of years. Earlier this year, in his role as president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Chiu championed a local law that made Airbnb lodging legal in the city.

Now, Chiu wants to make similar strides at the state level.

“I think it is time for the state of California to think about what are appropriate and inappropriate regulations of these new 21st-century business models and ways of living,” he said. “It’s something I think the state needs to focus on.”

Prior to his initial election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2008, Chiu founded Grassroots Enterprise, an online communications and technology firm. He felt that experience helped him get a good handle on how people interact with public officials.

A Harvard graduate and attorney, Chiu supports IT consolidation and transparency efforts. He passed legislation in San Francisco that at first incentivized and then required city agencies to publicize hundreds of data sets in recent years. Chiu wants to further expand California’s efforts to publicize data and move the needle on open government in the state.

Chiu also is an advocate for expanding the scope of California’s workforce. He explained that he’d like to see progress – and perhaps author legislation – that helps empower people to take part in technology-driven economies.

“I think that’s another challenge California faces – ensuring our education and workforce programs are helping all of our diverse communities benefit from technology jobs and tech-driven industries,” Chiu said.

The California Legislature will reconvene on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015.

Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.