First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Gregory Miller: Thanks for asking. We’re sequestered on our residential property with well-appointed office space; to that extent, we’re fortunate to have a large amount of land above Forest Park in our city of Portland, Oregon, USA. The family is healthy, thank you, but always on guard.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded OSET Institute
Gregory Miller: That’s a very long story. After a solid career in engineering, product management, marketing, and law, a group of us–social entrepreneurs from the digital technology sector–founded this Institute in 2006 in response to the inherent vulnerabilities and security risks in current election administration and voting technology. I have now invested roughly one-third of my professional career in technology (13 years), leading this public, nonprofit endeavor to build and produce publicly owned voting technology.
This project is my purpose–to give back to democracy in a manner other than serving in the military, government, or politics–in honor of my late parents, both immigrants; had they not successfully made it to America, I would not be here.
How does the OSET Institute innovate?
Gregory Miller: Quite simply, we believe innovation flourishes unbridled in the absence of restrictive commercial mandates. Innovation takes a meritocratic path at the OSET Institute and the TrustTheVote Project. Everyone is aware of our mandate to design and build the best possible solution that ensures the resulting voting technology is verifiable, accurate, secure, and transparent. Without time to market constraints, profitability, competitive margins, or shareholder return on equity mandates, we are free to seek the very best solution elements. To accelerate innovation, our strategy is delivery, which means rapid iteration and refinement in a peer-reviewed manner. We believe that transparency builds trust and code causes change. Thus, we are empowered to innovate by adhering to those maxims.
More detail: we necessarily eschew tactical or piecemeal change, recognizing that innovation in the machinery of elections must be holistic, strategic, and above all, transformational. Therefore, we are guided by four operating principles reduced to practice in our flagship effort, the TrustTheVote Project working on the innovation of electoral technology and process reform as a matter of preserving the operational continuity of the sovereign acts of democracy administration:
- Catalyze transformational innovation in the critical democracy infrastructure of elections administration and voting.
- Pursue an audacious agenda, think big, be willing to take aggressive risks, and conduct all efforts in a goal-oriented manner.
- Apply proactive approaches to the work that engage elections stakeholders in meaningful ways with measurable impacts that adhere to security-centric engineering and user-centered design practices.
- Solve the challenges of elections administration and voting by inventing applications, devices, and services that people can see, touch, and try, and which bring ease, convenience, and even delight to the experience of administering, conducting, and for citizens, participating in the electoral processes of democracy in a digital age—worldwide.
What Successful Innovation Means
The success of the TrustTheVote Project means causing a historical change in the machinery of elections, in a massively scalable manner, that demonstratively and markedly improves the mandate of trustworthy elections: the highest possible assurance of verifiability, accuracy, security, and transparency. This is nothing short of a mission to defend democracy.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business and how are you coping?
Gregory Miller: The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled us to exclusively operate virtually. We are a highly distributed organization involving ~70 people as it is. So this was not much of an adjustment as we were already well versed in using online collaboration tools to work.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Gregory Miller: Given the curtailment of travel and the impact COVID-19 put on our nonprofit fundraising abilities, we did have to perform some lay-offs, although nearly everyone has continued to donate their time while we wait on fresh funding to restore their paying roles unless they find a new position elsewhere before we can restart paying them. The biggest lesson for us is continually revisiting how we can make our operations efficient and resilient to disruptions of natural disasters such as this.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and OSET Institute in the future?
Gregory Miller: For me personally, it’s all about diet, exercise, and rest and keeping that in a rhythm. I was a former competitive collegiate athlete age ago, and continue to run daily now; early morning runs in the forest are the best therapy I have–that and an incredibly supportive wife who is my best friend as well. Going forward, we continue to encourage a similar balance for all of our team members.
Your final thoughts
Gregory Miller: COVID-19 has been a wakeup call that business must be resilient to these disasters in the digital age and find ways to adopt, adapt, and deploy technology to enable operational continuity. This will not be the last time we are plagued in this manner. The public Internet has proven to be the foundation for this in the digital age. For those businesses that rely on in-person customer contact, determining touch-less and socially distanced interactions is imperative. For those of us in technology, this is less of a problem. What this does mean going forward is a new emphasis on ensuring Internet governance ensures fair and balanced access for all so that the Internet as a fundamental public utility that runs to basic issues of survival and viability is available to all, regardless of economic stature. And for this reason, the Internet must remain free of government interruption, disruptions, and undue influence and control.
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