U.S. debates IT promotion

Should the Bush administration do more to boost private sector use of IT? That’s one question currently being debated in Washington, D.C., policy circles. Prescriptions predictably vary according to ideology.

The government should actively promote IT to boost productivity, according to Robert Atkinson, vice-president and director of the Technology & New Economy Project at the Progressive Policy Institute, a Democratic think tank. He doesn’t suggest specific policies but says the federal government should encourage increased adoption of IT in industries such as real estate, education and health care, where technologies like smart cards and wireless devices could increase efficiency and create usage models for other sectors. (So far, no legislation has been introduced to carry out this idea.)

Meanwhile, at The Progress and Freedom Foundation, a conservative technology policy think tank, senior fellow Alan Charles Raul says the government is already doing enough to promote e-commerce by enacting legislation such as last year’s bill legalizing electronic records and signatures. “They need to promote e-commerce by removing barriers to online activities, not imposing onerous regulations,” he says.

To date, Congress has maintained a hands-off approach toward regulation. It is unclear whether that will change with the U.S. Senate under Democratic

control. By the time you read this, lawmakers may already have decided to extend a moratorium on Internet access taxes that expires later this month. But at press time, they were still waffling over whether they should come up with a scheme that would help states collect taxes from online purchases.