Bush official delivers wake-up call to IT industry

A senior official in the U.S. Department of Commerce called upon the IT industry to significantly raise its game when it comes to influencing public policy in order to avert having its interests subverted by more politically savvy industries such as the telecommunications sector and media content providers.

“The IT industry writ large needs to be more engaged at every level,” said Phillip J. Bond, undersecretary and chief of staff for Technology Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce. “The telcos and content provider companies know the halls of Congress inside and out. When you look at the top 50 advocacy associations, you do not see an IT presence, and the voices of the industry as a whole are splintered.”

Speaking at Utah Information Technology Association’s IT Summit 2002 conference on The Future of Web Services in Salt Lake City, Bond said the convergence between IT and the telecommunications sector “will not be frictionless.”

And yet, IT companies in the face of the current economic slump are investing less in public policy lobbying at their own peril, Bond said.

“The IT industry can not afford to not participate,” Bond said.

For it part, Bond noted that the U.S. government under the Bush administration has increased R&D spending to US$112 billion, increased the federal IT budget by 15 percent to $52 billion a year, and signed legislation that accelerated depreciation around capital spending by 30 percent.

“For the Bush administration, technology is mission-critical to everything we do,” Bond said, noting that spending by the U.S. Government in the areas of security, privacy and digital rights management will serve to expedite the adoption of a broad array of technologies.

The overall goal, Bond continued, is that the Internet affirms Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the value of the network is related to the number of people who use it.

“We want to get 5 billion people online, not just 5 million,” Bond said. “But that won’t happen without the IT industry being engaged in public policy.”