What Our Next President Needs to Know about U.S. Technology Policy
After the early caucuses and primaries, it’s a mistake to pretend that voters aren’t angry with conventional, middle-of-the-road solutions. The next President isn’t going to limp to the finish line with a warmed-over, spiced-up version of the past. He or she is going to have to make fundamental changes, and that includes to our country’s technology policy.
A group of senior IT experts, including many who served in executive roles in government, are attempting to direct the presidential candidates’ attention to the urgent needs of technology policy in the Federal government. We released a report on February 11, titled “Tech Iconoclasts — Voting for America’s Success in a Network World”, that outlines five key needs in technology and innovation and recommends polices to address those needs. We define the five central areas in need of addressing as Advancing America’s Competitiveness, Rebuilding Trust in Government and Institutions, Using Technology to Simplify and Enhance People’s Lives, Reinventing Government Technology, and Evolving the Workforce.
This group of Iconoclast was tasked with thinking creatively – even boldly – about how to address these five areas. The word “iconoclast” is from the Greek word that literally means “image destroyer”; it refers to a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions or widely accepted practices. And that certainly is appropriate for our times. As one analyst observed recently, there’s a reason that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are the only two candidates who regularly fill arenas with passionate, standing room crowds. Both are calling for change that is fundamental, not cosmetic or incremental.
We believe in fundamental change for our county’s technology policy, and our report reflects that. Our recommendations are ambitious in both goals and scope. We call for a complete remodeling of Federal IT infrastructure across agencies; a reformation of educational and hiring practices for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students; and a restructuring of both the patent and immigration systems, among many other suggestions.
The report justifies the aggressive plan with a grim outlook on the future if the next Administration does nothing: “Today’s thinking will not solve tomorrow’s challenges. The next president ignores the changing nature of the global network at his or her own peril. Indeed, the very ability of governments to govern rests on their understanding of the networked world and their willingness to change at network speed,” the report states.
It goes on to note that U.S. investments may soon be outstripped by China’s, U.S. happiness and employment marketability still lags behind other countries, and overall trust in the government’s ability to protect data is at an all-time low.
Though each of the five areas lays out a specific plan for enacting change, they all stress that these changes are of vital importance to the nation’s future. This IT call-to-action sends a powerful statement to the presidential candidates: drastically change IT policy or be responsible for government failure on nearly all levels.