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Cool White House tech stuff: No. 10 #dctech trend of 2016

In 2016, the White House started a Snapchat account and launched an augmented reality app and held its own version of SXSW.

As the year draws to a close we’re looking back at all that has happened in #dctech. This post is part of our 2016 year in review series. See the full list here.

The federal government often falls outside the purview of what we really focus on here at DC — there’s plenty happening in the local tech scene to keep us busy. And yet, every now and then something happens on the federal side that’s either too big, or too cool, for us to ignore.
This trend focuses on the latter — the Obama White House did all kinds of cool tech stuff in 2016.
For the past months, it’s almost been like Barack Obama, and his administration, frankly, were living it up while they could. In January, ahead of Obama’s final State of the Union address, the White House launched an official Snapchat account. The account brought viewers “behind the scenes” of SOTU 2016 in a way that’s become familiar and expected to denizens of the app but was totally unprecedented for the office of the President of the United States. According to the White House, the creation of the account played into its goal of “meeting people where they are.”
Speaking of which, in August, the administration opened itself up in yet another new way — with a Facebook Messenger bot. Gone are the days of sending snail mail letters to the president, now you can do that via Facebook! It’s “as easy as messaging your closest friends,” the team behind the bot promised. The team later open sourced the bot to help other governments create their own.
September and October were big months for cool White House tech stuff — first the White House participated in an Open Data Innovation Summit during which staff and others commented on the work the Obama administration did over eight years in the service of open data, and what work remains to be done.
And then Obama threw the first-ever South by South Lawn event, a celebration of tech and innovation based on Austin’s famed SXSW.
Last but certainly not least, at the beginning of December, the White House launched an augmented reality app that’s simple, sure, but pretty damn cool.
It’s a little bittersweet to look back at what the White House under Obama has done with and for tech, as what lies ahead after inauguration day 2017 is an unknown. That said, we do know that President-elect Donald Trump is a big fan of Twitter.
Thanks, Obama. We’ll always remember the tech times.


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