WASHINGTON--In the realm of technology policy, Carly Fiorina has worn many hats--something other leaders may want to consider, she says.
She has held influence as a chief executive of a major company and as an economic adviser for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during his 2008 presidential bid. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO is now chairing the board of the Technology Policy Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank--a role that won't preclude a potential political bid of her own.
"I am seriously considering a (Senate) race in California," she said, during a roundtable interview at the think tank here Tuesday. "I hope I can add value and make a difference...irrespective of what my decision will be in California."
Her varied experiences, Fiorina said, would be an asset if she were to pursue political office, though she declined to say when she may come to a decision about her potential Senate run.
"I have learned over the last several years that the opportunity to be involved in the political community, the policy making community, and the business community is in many ways a great advantage," she said. "Over time it may become more of a necessity for people to understand all of those realms because of the impact they have on one another."
"Increasingly, none of (the country's) challenges can be solved without an understanding of the political impact, the policy reality, how the business community will react," she continued. "I find I have a perspective in all those camps."
An understanding of policy, politics, and business will be increasingly important with respect to technology as Barack Obama's presidency and policy prescriptions continue to put the use of technology front and center, she said.
"Barack Obama used technology brilliantly during his campaign and put technology into the center of virtually every American's life, even if they didn't quite understand it," she said. "His administration has also put technology at the center of the agenda," making it a part of health care reform, investments in energy, and other major initiatives.
The use of technology can be "both sexy and scary" for those who do not think about it every day, Fiorina said, and without tempered recommendations from nonpartisan groups, politicians can get swept up in the emotional aspect of tech policy.
"When there are government programs focused on technology spending, people can get very excited on the broad strokes, but without paying attention to the facts and the details, the broad strokes can lead you astray," Fiorina said. "Technology is a place where the details matter."
Emotions can easily trump facts in discussions about immigration, for instance. The Technology Policy Institute released a report (PDF) earlier this month showing that immigration--including high-skilled immigration and otherwise--has a positive effect on the federal budget.
The group also recently produced policy recommendations (PDF) for ICANN, the nonprofit organization that governs the Internet domain system. While ICANN may not be regular table talk in Washington, the organization's move toward independence from the United States could have profound implications, Fiorina said.
"For a lot of people who care about technology deployment, the organization that sits at the heart of that is pretty important," she said. "It's a classic example of where the details matter."
An interest in technological solutions for issues such as health care and education reform is nothing new in Washington, Fiorina said. However, as the climate in Washington makes these goals more realistic, the details become more important, she said.
"Everyone agrees health care needs to be reformed, and everyone believes technology is part of the solution," she said, "(but) we know from fact and experience simply throwing money at technology doesn't work."