By Staff Writer
Sascha Meinrath is the Palmer Chair in Telecommunications at Penn State and director of X-Lab, an innovative think tank focusing on the intersection of vanguard technologies and public policy. Meinrath is a renowned technology policy expert and is internationally recognized for his work over the past two decades as a community internet pioneer, social entrepreneur and angel investor.
He explained the problem the X-Lab is solving: “X-Lab is a technology policy institute working to solve vexing societal problems stemming from the ever-increasing importance of technology in our everyday lives,” he said.
“Currently, the X-Lab team's work focuses on broadband access and adoption, working to address the ongoing failure to provide affordable, reliable, high-speed connectivity to everyone, everywhere; and civil liberties and our Constitutional rights, helping to coordinate national efforts to rein in illegal government surveillance, and ensure that our right to privacy and freedom of expression is not trampled upon,” he continued.
Meinrath explained why X-Lab is critical to these conversations. “Whether in DC or Harrisburg, there are a ton of lawyers, but a dearth of technologists. In today's world, technical acumen is essential to informed decision-making, yet often missing from the deliberations. X-Lab is often the only public interest group in these discussions—and usually facing legions of lobbyists—with our elected officials too often making decisions that go against the best interests of their constituents due to the dearth of independent experts in the conversation,” he said.
According to Meinrath, “The problem of lack of technological expertise among our key decision-makers will continue to grow, requiring expansive intervention by experts who are supporting the public interest. As such, the Commonwealth (and our country) have never needed public interest technologists more than today—and that need will only grow more dire over time.”
Since the entire general public is impacted by laws, Meinrath explained that X-Lab's "customers" are all Pennsylvania residents, and that X-Lab's efforts focus on educating state and federal decision-makers who impact the general public.
Happy Valley’s location provides an ideal "base of operations" for X-Lab, Meinrath said, noting it’s “close enough to Harrisburg and Washington, DC to engage key decision-makers, yet far enough outside these political bubbles to be grounded "in the real world."
“X-Lab's work focuses on issues that cut straight across traditional political divides -- ensuring broadband access and protecting civil liberties are high priorities, regardless of political affiliation; and Happy Valley is a microcosm for the country, with residents spanning the political spectrum, but who also have substantial common ground. Happy Valley provides an exemplar of how we might foster a more respectful, mutually-supportive society -- if we'd only listen to the needs of the people,” he said.