The Candidates Aren’t Talking Tech, But We Are: 4 Technology Initiatives for our Next President

After three 90-minute debates and seemingly endless months of campaigning, you’d think we’d know every single important policy position that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may push as president. But that is far from the case, with topics including climate change barely mentioned along with another near and dear to our hearts: technology.

If you dig deep enough online, you can find positions from the candidates on some technology initiatives, especially from Clinton, who has published an “Initiative on Technology & Innovation” on her web site. (None of the 15 categories in the “Positions” section of Trump’s web site squarely address technology.) But it’s fair to say technology has not been front and center for either candidate.

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The most exhaustive independent examination of the issue I’ve found was from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a U.S. science and technology policy think tank, which in September released a report examining the candidates’ positions in nine technology areas, from innovation and R&D to regulation.

It’s an important topic when you consider the role the U.S. government has had in previous technology initiatives, including a little thing called the Internet. Inspired by the ITIF report, following are some technology initiatives that I’d like to see our next president get behind, whoever it may be. Hopefully you’ll agree that they make sense for the country as a whole and for those of you selling technology related solutions.

Focus on STEM

If we are to continue to innovate, we need to educate future generations. And to compete on a global scale, it’s clear that we need to increase our educational focus in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Some, including the ITIF, call for high schools focused on STEM. Such schools may have their place, but exposing all public school kids to STEM-related curriculum makes more sense in my book; nobody knows where the next Einstein may come from.

One of the biggest impediments toward increased STEM education is finding teachers qualified to teach the subjects. Toward that end, the federal government should put money toward training teachers. I also like Clinton’s idea, outlined in her technology initiative to allow students to use federal financial aid to take Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and get professional certifications. She has also proposed $10 billion in federal funding for “nanodegrees, accelerated learning programs for computer coding, career and technical training, certificates for specializations, and online learning.”

Broadband for all

Access to broadband communications technology is pretty much table stakes if we’re going to educate our kids and keep businesses competitive. We’re getting there but still have a way to go, according to the Pew Research Center, which has been measuring Internet adoption since the year 2000.

“In 2000, 56% of suburban residents, 53% of urban residents, and 42% of rural residents were Internet users. Today those figures stand at 85%, 85%, and 78% respectively,” Pew says.

That means more than one in five rural residents don’t use the Internet. I’d venture to guess it’s not because they’re all wholly uninterested, but rather that – in many cases – they lack affordable Internet access options. (The “affordable” party may well extend to those in urban areas as well.)

As part of her technology initiative, Clinton has a goal of delivering affordable broadband to all households by 2020, paid by investments in the Connect America Fund, Rural Utilities Service program, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. Trump, as far as I can tell, hasn’t commented on the issue.

Support clean energy

While you may not immediately think of clean, alternative energy as a technology issue, I’d argue it most certainly is. It’s the technological advances we’ve seen in photovoltaic systems that have consistently brought down the price of solar panels. It stands to reason that continued investments in areas such as wind, hydro and geo-thermal technology will likewise pay dividends. That, of course, is a good thing for Schneider Electric partners that sell all the related equipment and software required to deliver and efficiently run these alternative energy systems.

Keep funding what’s working

The federal government has come up with programs over the years that work as intended to jump start technology initiatives. Sometimes, the best thing a politician can do is leave well enough alone – and that certainly applies in at least two cases I can think of: E-Rate and Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs).

E-Rate is a program through which schools and libraries can get rebates of 20% to 90% on eligible technology services and equipment – including UPSs sold by Schneider Electric partners, as we discussed in this previous blog post.

ESPCs have been around since the 1990s but only fairly recently have they found favor among federal government agencies as a way to help fund new or expand energy efficient data centers. It’s the proverbial win-win – and should be left alone by the new administration.

That’s my modest list of marching orders for our next president. I’d love to hear what ideas you have; feel free to use the comments below to let me know.

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