Commerce hires former Google director as digital economy chief

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The Commerce Department has hired former Google director Alan Davidson to lead the department’s work on digital economy and Internet policy issues as its digital economy director.

Davidson has spent more than a decade crafting tech policy in Washington, most notably opening Google’s first D.C. office in 2005, where he served as the director of public policy for Google in the Americas. He left Google in 2012 to join the New America Foundation, where he most recently served as director of the think tank’s Open Technology Institute.

“I’m excited about this opportunity to serve, but also sad to be leaving New America and OTI,” Davidson said in a release. “I am intensely proud of the work we have done together at New America to further the cause of freedom and equity online. The Commerce Department will play a central role in some of the biggest Internet policy debates of the next few years, and I am honored by this chance to make a contribution there.”

“We are so pleased that Alan is joining our team at the Department of Commerce,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in a statement. “His experience, expertise, and leadership will be essential as we continue providing American businesses with the tools they need to compete and succeed in the 21st century digital economy.”

Davidson is part of a growing number of tech experts joining the Obama administration. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith and U.S. Digital Service Administrator Mikey Dickerson spent time at Google before taking positions with the federal government.

In the past year, the Commerce Department has focused on how technology — particularly data — can help lift the American economy. Pritzker has pegged the department as “America’s Data Agency” and hired a chief data officer to figure out how to unleash the department’s massive data library to spur a new wave of businesses.

Davidson has worked for the federal government before: He helped design information systems for NASA’s Space Station Freedom Project while serving as a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton.

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