Based in san francisco, california, mia shaw writes, acts, and analyzes public policy. Her posts explore current events, cultural phenomena, and diverse opinions.

Sonny Hashmi, Managing Director, Global Government at Box

Sonny Hashmi, Managing Director, Global Government at Box

“The most fascinating thing about technology is how it actually adds value to people’s lives,” said Sonny Hashmi, the former Chief Information Officer for the General Services Administration (GSA), and now a managing director at Box. “It’s important that policy doesn’t get in the way of providing good services.”

Enterprise content management platform Box aims to reduce barriers, increase transparency and improve collaboration between departments, while supporting critical security requirements and access controls.

As its Managing Director of Global Government, Hashmi makes sure products and services comply with public-sector client needs, working with the government to ensure a variety of perspectives are incorporated into the creation process.

“I’ve learned a lot around how to actually build products that users love to use every day, and that’s the important thing: it’s not just nice to have — when you build products that are so seamless, that integrate into people’s lives, it fundamentally improves the user experience,” Hashmi said. “I’m a long-time believer in looking at tech in a new way, in how it should be procured, how it should be implemented — how it can add value to every customer.”

As the GSA’s Chief Information Officer, he oversaw and managed the GSA’s roughly $540M annual IT investment portfolio, including the oversight of a global secure network of over 17,000 users, over 70,000 end point devices, and over 300 business systems. He worked to use open data in the provision of public services, as well as the deployment of technology in a scalable way.

Hashmi hopes to help modern government agencies build systems to engage citizens, while attaining the same levels of security as large corporations. Currently, Box products are used in wildfire evacuations in California and for law enforcement and anti-terrorism efforts across the country.

“In the digital world, we have to be more demanding of government to be more inclusive and open about their data and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs),” he explained. “We should try to understand the unique problems experienced by government, and build a better environment for government agencies to feel more empowered and comfortable opening their information.”

Despite wide disparities in the levels of technology adoption across agencies, Hashmi feels that government services are ultimately being held back by an institutional inability to quickly embrace technology solutions.

In order to resolve the issue, Hashmi believes that barriers between government and business need to be broken.

“Most of my time is spent meeting with government leaders — federal, state, local — as well as international government customers, to really understand the challenges they face every day,” said Hashmi. “Business industry leaders who want to do their jobs better, work with stakeholders and in a more effective way, work among their departments in a more seamless way. I figure out how not only Box, but also how other partners can come together to solve problems.”

Noting an increase in the amount of cybersecurity innovation in particular, Hashmi believes: “It’s about finding a balance of effectiveness and best practices: people shouldn’t have to sacrifice security for good services.”

Hashmi believes in the “power of the end user” to drive the creation and design of new technologies.

“The next generation of civic governance looks like BRIDGE SF, in that this next generation of smart people really want to come together to solve real problems and make a difference,” Hashmi noted. “Historically, government organizations are not very open to integrating this talent, but they should find ways to bring these people in. People should be getting involved in the right things, finding the right pathways to add value.”

Despite successes in government innovation, Hashmi sees a divide widening between people being served and those most in need of the services and a need for better outreach to diverse communities.

“The conversation needs to stay active; we need to look more like NASA — always pushing, competing, and innovating,” he added.

Kiran Jain, Chief Resiliency Officer for the City of Oakland, on the importance of regional alliances

Kiran Jain, Chief Resiliency Officer for the City of Oakland, on the importance of regional alliances