Barack Obama’s Top 5 technology promises

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Opinion - President-elect Barack Obama has made history and will have the chance to go along that path further in future years. If we look at technology especially, we see the so-far probably most tech-savvy president being confronted with a country that is in dire need of changes that affect technology infrastructure, research and innovation in many ways to catch up with other countries. Silicon Valley has been complaining for years that government has neglected a technology-focused promotion of education, but besides with, what can the IT industry expect from the new president?  TG Daily re-visited Obama's speeches and highlight what we believe are the five most important technology promises, besides education.

Silicon Valley’s cash already voted for Obama. According to a study conducted by the Center for Responsive Politics, Barack Obama received the lion's share of donations from the nation's tech giants, which backed him in a 5:1 ratio. Google alone donated almost half a million dollars, while its CEO Eric Schmidt publicly announced Obama as his choice on many occasions. In total, Obama collected $1.44 million in donations from employees at the 20 largest Silicon Valley companies. The figure compares to McCain's $267,041.

Obama demonstrated a greater understanding and use of technology than any other presidential candidate before. His campaign used web and mobile for fundraising and connecting to voters. Unlike McCain, who admitted that he does not know his way around computers, Obama was regularly spotted using handhelds. The Internet played a key role in Obama’s fundraising effort.

His campaign was omnipresent on the Internet, from a dedicated YouTube channel to Obama pages on Facebook and MySpace as well as Twitter feeds, in addition to the Obama '08 application for the iPhone that displays updates and important stats and allows supporters to call nearby friends. His team even allocated ads in games like Burnout Paradise and Madden NFL 09 to connect with a younger audience. So what can we expect from this tech-savvy President-elect? Here are our top 5 choices, which we found in Obama’s recent speeches.

1. Net neutrality

The goal of net neutrality is to set rules and put laws in place to force service providers and telcos to allow all applications, services and devices access networks to perform on equal terms. Contrary to McCain who wanted to let the private sector sort this out, Obama promised to enforce net neutrality through federal legislation. Obama believes the federal government needs to stand behind it in order to prevent manipulation by carriers and service providers that in the end stalls innovation. Obama mentions this belief his tech paper that "a key reason the Internet has been such a success is because it is the most open network in history."

2. Broadband penetration

When it comes to broadband penetration and speed, the U.S. country lags behind most parts of the world. In terms of speed, a CWA study puts the U.S. at position 15 on a worldwide scale, far behind the leaders Japan, South Korea and Finland. Various organizations attempted to get Congress to come up with an improved telecommunications policy with virtually no success at all. Obama promised to expand the Universal Service Fund in order to re-build the nation's broadband infrastructure. If that promise will be kept we are looking at one of the most significant infrastructure improvements of our time, but it is necessary to provide people in the U.S. with broadband access they need in the future.

Read on the next page: Wireless, outsourcing, privacy


 

3. Wireless spectrum

The existing wireless spectrum usage rules did not promote competition and failed to deliver benefits to end-users. A lack of competition and fair usage rules in the wireless space are key obstacles that hold back new innovation. Obama promised a thorough review of the existing wireless spectrum uses. Additionally, he wants government agencies that control the wireless spectrum to define a "smarter, more efficient and more imaginative use."


4. H-1B visas and offshoring

Job offshoring is a reality of our time, a trend that is driven by cost and globalization factors. Obama promised he would eliminate tax breaks to the companies which ship domestic jobs overseas, a move that could prove to be difficult, especially if offshoring is required in required global expansions of companies. However, Silicon Valley is likely to benefit from Obama's proposal to increase the number of H-1B non-immigrant visas needed to recruit foreign guest workers. The increase in granted H-1B visas could appear in sharp contrast with measures to reduce outsourcing, but it will actually allow tech companies to recruit highly specialized engineers and scientists to increase their competitiveness. Of course, that strategy needs to go in hand with a greater focus on education and enable U.S. companies to find the talent they need on these shores.

5. Privacy
 
Unfortunately, our privacy legislation appears to be always one step behind when it comes to high tech and online scenarios. Obama proposed increased security for electronic health records to and new measures to restrict the use of personal information stored in electronic databases. Cyber-criminals are also on Obama's agenda: The President-elect promised he would improve the Federal Trade Commission enforcement budget to battle spam and fund the fight against phishing and malware.