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Technology a bridge to empower the masses: Obama

Date

Matthew Hall

President Barack Obama, pictured at a fund-raiser in Atlanta,  said technology was key to democracy.

President Barack Obama, pictured at a fund-raiser in Atlanta, said technology was key to democracy. Photo: David Goldman/AP

The US Presidential election took a brief tech twist after Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, outlined their technology policies to a New York City industry association.

New York Tech Meetup, a non-profit organisation with more than 27,000 members across the city's technology community, wrote to both candidates last month and asked how their policies would affect its members.

"Public policy has a large impact on our industry and therefore we feel it is important to educate our members about where candidates stand on issues that may affect them most," said Andrew Rasiej, the chairman of the organisation, which counts Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, and Tumblr among its sponsors.

Hurricane Sandy and its devastating impact on the US east coast aside, the election is being contested mainly on broad economic and social issues. Technology policy has been largely overlooked in public discussion.

While New York Tech Meetup's status as a non-profit organisation excludes it from directly endorsing a candidate after receiving their responses, Rasiej said Obama appeared to have specifically addressed tech industry issues in his reply.

"The Obama response seemed more tailored specifically to overall tech industry goals," said Rasiej. "The Romney response seemed 'cut and pasted' from his general policy points, which seem to simply be directed towards a pro-business stance but with little detail."

Obama named technology as a "bridge" to "empower citizens and build a more participatory democracy" and highlighted that on his first day in office in 2009 he appointed a federal chief technology officer.

He wrote that his administration was expanding broadband networks and listed new laws that help entrepreneurs and small businesses harness "crowd funding", reformation of patent laws, and support of an open internet while enforcing intellectual property rights.

Republican Romney, who co-founded the investment firm Bain Capital, attacked the President in his response, calling the government's attempts to invest in companies "misguided" and "a disaster for the American taxpayer".

He wrote "the private sector is far more effective at pursuing and applying innovation than government could ever be".

Romney's pitch included claims he would lower taxes, limit regulation, promote free trade and confront China on intellectual property and restricted markets.

Both candidates highlighted education, with Obama posting goals that included "recruiting 100,000 math and science teachers over the next 10 years and training 2 million workers" for jobs in healthcare, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and IT.

Both candidates also named human capital as an important issue. Obama pointed to a start-up visa program that allows foreign entrepreneurs to establish businesses in America.

Romney called for immigration law reform and said he would "raise visa caps for highly skilled foreign workers, offer permanent residence to foreign students graduating with advanced degrees in relevant fields".

According to the meetup group, a major challenge for the tech industry is a skills gap. Education and immigration are key areas of policy interest.

"We have zero unemployment in the New York tech sector so minting software developers is a major policy objective," said Rasiej.

"[That] takes the form of visa reform to allow engineers from other countries to work and possibly immigrate here, increasing the amount of [science, technology, engineering, and maths] education in public schools, and ultimately increasing the number of graduates from universities with computer science degrees."

Obama made a personal shout out to the tech industry, writing that "I've never been more optimistic about the future ... because of all of you. You'll be the next entrepreneur to turn a big idea into something– a new invention or an entire new industry."

The New York technology community was this week scrambling to keep working in the wake of Sandy's fury.

3 comments

  • Yeah, yeah, yeah. Obama good, Romney bad. Give it up already. Obama isn't going to be president after this current term. He has no clue about anything. Look at the economy....oh, that's right, it's Bush's fault. Give us break.

    Commenter
    Dr Strangelove
    Location
    NY
    Date and time
    November 01, 2012, 12:19PM
    • If you had any idea about economics you would realise that because of the massive downturn in equity and real estate prices the US economy was wallowing in massive debt- something that takes quite a bit of time to clean up - See Japan see US in early 1990s The US government was also in massive debt thanks to the policies of George W who decided to fight two wars whilst handing out tax cuts. It doesnt take much to work out that Obama had pretty tough gig at the start and it was always going to be a big ask to get out of the Republican's mess. You might also recall that the US has regained some international respect after the debacle of Cheney and Bush. Lets hope Obama gets in or we are going to have the Tea Party fundamentalists fighting it out with the Jihadis!!

      Commenter
      Hershalle
      Date and time
      November 01, 2012, 3:32PM
      • @Hershalle, I couldn't agree more... Unfortunately for Obama the poisoned chalice he inherited when he became president, and the fact that he also ended up with a Republican controlled Congress has meant a continuing up-hill battle for the reforms he could see needed to be implemented, and have been subsequently watered down or stalled. His utilisation of technology and social media shows that he is a person who is willing to embrace change and even willing to try things to get reform started, even if this needs to be refined as they progress. I know I use this as a common example, but away from the bright lights of Hollywood and New Yorks financial hubs there is some amazing recovery occuring in Mid-west America that is being driven by education, science, technology and medical research and advances, many of which we do not hear about. These areas have positive job growth, population growth, housing and construction growth, and the list goes on. Where else can you find a medical complex achieving outstanding result with the latest technologies in a 5-city-block complex that includes hotels, small businesses, specialist accomodation to assist the underprivaledged, brilliant local transport systems et al? This example has resulted in major investment and recovery that is not being published outside of the US as it would appear to be contra to the current Republican election strategy. These are the advances Obama has been trying to push, but the conservatives have been stifling.

        Commenter
        Blue Eyes
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        November 02, 2012, 10:27AM
        Comments are now closed
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