Policy and technology experts talk about the importance of rebuilding Puerto Rico through a“digital first” approach


Washington, DC, November 17, 2017
– With the purpose of shedding light on the importance of enacting a coherent digital strategy for Puerto Rico’s reconstruction efforts, Piloto 151 held the third event of their Dear Fiscal Board speaker series last Thursday at New America’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

Giancarlo Gonzalez, who organized the event after having served as Chief Information Officer of the Government of Puerto Rico, said he was very pleased with the turnout of close to 100 participants, many of them leaders in the government policy and technology space.  The event succeeded in raising awareness on the importance of a digital governance strategy to rebuild Puerto Rico, with Gonzalez now being invited to testify before the Fiscal Oversight Board on November 30th to talk about the issue of how to improve the efficiency of government services through information technology.

“When you have Aaron Snow, co-founder and former Executive Director of 18F, a division of General Services Administration, that partners with other federal agencies to improve the user experience of government services, sitting in a panel with Carlos Mercader, the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, engaging in a discussion of how PRFAA can engage in adopting digital best practices to rebuild Puerto Rico, you know you are moving in the right direction”, added Gonzalez.  In the event, Mercader publicly stated that he would work towards supporting a similar structure in Puerto Rico and collaborating with Aaron on finding ways to support digital initiatives.

In a one-on-one conversation with Bill Cooper, lead drafter of the Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), Cooper stated that “The fundamental aspect of the bill is how do we craft legislation that provides the tools for an oversight board to do what up until that point in time was not being done by the government, while respecting the sovereignty of the commonwealth”.  Also, Bill highlighted that post-maria “the oversight board needs to be a facilitator in modernizing the Commonwealth government in all of its instrumentalities to be able to provide affordable and reliable services to the people who pay for it. They are empowered to facilitate that end result.” For the complete interview, click here.

Supporting the tech ecosystem in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria was also a topic of great discussion. Sofia Stolberg, CEO of Piloto 151 highlighted the importance of providing workplaces with connectivity for the community and mentioned that they were collaborating with an initiative developed by the Department of Economic Development to that effect. The importance of remote working also came up and panelists offered tips on creating a remote first culture while companies looking to hire Puerto Rico’s talent were encouraged to fill out a brief form to get connected with hire-ready programmers on the Island. According to Stolberg, “A digital governance strategy can provide the foundation to platform services that enable the open markets to build new technologies to re-imagine how we deliver and consume services.  Puerto Rico must aspire to support as incentivize local companies to pilot next generation innovative technologies across every sector.”


The evening progressed with a panel on how to leverage civic tech with members of the Maria Tech Brigade an ad hoc group of more than 200 programmers that came together in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to contribute to relief efforts through technological solutions.  The group, which is credited with enabling the Google People Finder to assist in finding missing persons, spoke about the challenges of scaling their efforts.  Froilan Irizarry, one of the group’s leaders said “Governments and civic technologists need to figure out ways of working with each other, and we must ensure the openness, availability, and accuracy of data.”  Denice Ross, who specializes in data transparency and civic engagement, added “I can’t emphasize enough how crucial parcel data is for recovery. It’s the scaffold onto which all other data hangs. We must make the case for opening this data. Whatever money the government is making selling it, they are losing the opportunity for large-scale alignment of public and private sector recovery efforts.”

The Dear Fiscal Board speaker series is possible thanks to the generous contributions of many organizations who understand the importance of digital and support empowering this agenda: Oracle, RenovacionesOnline, Claro, Aeronet, Fortinet Airbnb, MMM, TrueNorth, Banco Popular, NAVA, Ad Hoc LLC, Red Alpha, Ankura Consulting, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Relisc, Bold, PR Soft, Cenadores, Microjuris, Seriously Creative, and Tactical Media Group.

All proceeds from event ticket sales were in benefit of ConPRmetidos’ efforts, a non-profit organization with a long-standing track record that is now focused on long-term relief for the victims of Hurricane Maria. Piloto 151 also launched a limited edition Maria t-shirt to raise funds for ConPRmetidos and they can be purchased at www.piloto151.com/maria.

Dear Fiscal Board will continue to push for a digital first approach to rebuilding Puerto Rico. The next event in the speaker series will be in 2018. Those interested in more information can visit www.dearfiscalboard.com.

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