The first meeting of the American Technology Council, established by President Trump earlier this year, took place on Monday with representation from some of the biggest tech firms in the United States. Attendees included Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt and the CEOs of Adobe, Intel, Oracle and IBM.
“Our goal is to lead a sweeping transformation of federal government’s technology that will deliver dramatically better services for citizens, stronger protection from cyberattacks," President Trump stated. His comments indicate many US government agencies are using outdated technology, drawing a strong contrast with the US leadership position in tech.
The direction outlined by President Trump looks to continue that of President Obama, who established the United States Digital Service (USDS) in 2014 as a startup organisation pairing top technology talent with public servants. The USDS now has a network of teams working across Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, and the Small Business Administration.
Then there’s 18F, started in March 2014 by a group of Presidential Innovation Fellows seeking to extend their efforts to improve and modernise government technology, and now part of the Technology Transformation Service of the US General Services Administration. Their objective is to provide digital development and consulting services for any government agency or program and their work to date includes the creation of Cloud.gov and development of an identity and authentication platform to help agencies streamline digital authentication.
Much of this resonates with Australia’s efforts – the Digital Transformation Agency has as its vision the transformation of government services to better meet user needs, and the Australian government’s cybersecurity strategy has recently delivered its first annual progress update.
Areas of focus during the meeting of the American Technology Council reportedly included big data, workforce development and high-skilled immigration with other tech-focused meetings to happen later in the week looking at drones, 5G wireless technologies and the Internet of Things.
Immigration policy is something President Trump and the tech sector have clashed on previously. During his public remarks, Trump made specific reference to immigration indicating he wanted to “solve” this issue so tech companies “get the people you want in your companies”. The tech skills shortage is well documented – immigration policies to enable transfer of talent quickly may well enable the US government to “catch up with the technology revolution”.
“America should be the global leader in government technology just as we are in every other aspect” Trump said, adding “my administration is embracing a new spirit of innovation that will make life better for all Americans.”