For too long DC has seemed like a not-quite-cool-enough, can’t-quite-get-it-together place to be if you’re into all things tech, digital and Web. But that’s palpably changing.

For starters, Barack Obama and his family are moving into the White House in a few weeks.

To say that those of us who live here are excited is an understatement. Obama is the first digital president, of course. The social media strategy underlying the success of his campaign is being widely touted as a model for business (biggest takeaway: you trust who you know). Obama is also searching for the nation’s first CTO. And a long list of government agencies, headquartered here in DC, are experimenting with social media (the US Air Force blog and internal blogging by STRATCOM’s four-star general, to name a few).

UPDATE: the first blog post went up on the relaunched whitehouse.gov at 12:01 PM on Jan. 20, 2009.

DC is also home to hundreds of non-profits and trade associations. Flagship social media stars include the American Red Cross and Easter Seals’ Autism blog. Consult Beth Kanter, the guru for non-profit social media for more.

Then there’s what’s happening locally. The DC government has a well-regarded tech czar, Vivek Kundra, who uses the "Happiness Level" to gauge the success of how technology is being used in the District’s 86 agencies.

Network Solutions, the original dot com company which happens to be based in nearby Herndon, VA, is starting to do some cool things in social media (thanks to Shashi). That would have been unthinkable when I worked there 10 years ago. A number of tech start-ups are based here (a short list: Clearspring, Razoo, and more here from CrunchBase). And we’ve got our own tech incubator, LaunchBox Digital, specializing in Web and mobile apps. 

Google hosts a regular series of Google DC Talks on technology policy in its (pretty cool) downtown DC offices. 

DC Tech Events maintains an ongoing list of events, many skewed towards developers but others appropriate for business and strategy types. East Coast Blogging is another source for all things tech related to DC.

DC’s chapter of the Social Media Club is hosting a Government 2.0 discussion on Jan. 14, 2009.

Twin Tech III is slated for Jan. 22, 2009. And I’m thrilled to announce that BlogPotomac will be back on June 12, 2009. I’ll be co-emceeing again this year with the inimitable Geoff Livingston.

We’ve got our local tech celebs, of course, including AOL’s Frank Gruber and @newmediajim (video interview with Jim here). Not to mention former AOLers Steve Case and Ted Leonsis. And DC boasts a respectable list of Twitter Elites.

What this adds up to is an increasingly yeasty mix of people, events, tech companies, and organizations that are walking the social media talk.

How things change… or maybe they evolve. I remember when the Morino Institute’s Netpreneur Coffee & Doughnets was the only game in town for those immersed in the Internet and the Web. Mario Morino, a pioneer in venture philanthropy, funded the regular breakfast discussions where techpreneurs could meet to trade ideas. Seems like a lifetime ago but it was only a decade ago.

It’s about time DC caught up to Silicon Valley’s coolness factor.

I’m lovin’ it.

P.S. I’ve probably missed examples of what’s making Washington DC the next ‘It’ city of tech. Let me know what I’ve left out.

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Russell Pearson said on January 13, 2009 at 07:36 AM

Good to see what’s happening in the US. Some good developments here in the UK too and some great uses of social media. For example, I’ve just asked Boris Johnson, http://twitter.com/MayorOfLondon about London transport and possible timetable mashups using the new iBus scheme http://theparallaxview.com/2009/01/ibus/ .
Be interesting to see if he gets back… ;-)

Michael Robinson said on February 17, 2009 at 01:55 PM

This is an excellent description of how D.C. is quickly becoming a major leader in the technological universe. And with the migration of a good part of the country’s financial focus from New York to Washington (see my post on Bulletproof Blog from last month: http://www.bulletproofblog.com/2009/01/19/new-york-is-no-longer-the-center-of-the-financial-universe/), the city is becoming a national and global leader on multiple fronts. It will be interesting to see how the convergence of technological, social media and financial leadership play out in our nation’s capital over the coming months and years.

Mickie Kennedy said on February 18, 2009 at 10:36 AM

Technologically speaking D.C. is indeed getting a huge boost from Barack Obama.  The President is said to be receiving a device developed for NSA/miltary use.  It is highly encrypted, secures voice and data communications, and switches from “top secret” to “unclassified”.  High-tech!

Kelly said on February 19, 2009 at 08:24 PM

Washington DC, and in particular Northern Virginia, has actually long been the leader in Internet technologies and social media, actually applied to government and commercial programs that work. It’s simply not advertised as much.


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I’ve been writing about corporate and CEO blogging and business use of social media for over a decade. I welcome your Comments if they are on topic. I delete them if inappropriate or spammy.

 

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