Obama fleshes out tech vision but adds few details

There are two schools of thought when it comes to recessions.

Oneis that governments should go into debt – either through tax cuts orspending increases or both – to pay the salaries of people who mightotherwise be out of work.

The other school of thought is thateconomic downturns are an inevitable result of bubbles (whether it’sdot-com, real estate or crude oil) and public works programs will dolittle in the long term other than bolster people’s already unhealthysenses of entitlement.

But if you’re a disciple of the formerschool of thought, you might as well stimulate the economy throughinvestments in IT and energy reduction programs.

Hisradioaddress Sunday indicates U.S. president-Elect Barack Obama isclearly willing to borrow money, pushing the U.S. further into debt, tospend money on public works projects designed to stimulate the economy.Whether it’s sound economics is debatable, but what’s encouraging ishe’s talking about public works programs that would use technology tohelp the economy in the long run.

Obama’s plan, if implemented, would help the economy in three ways.

First,his plan to put electronic health records in every doctor’s officewould make the health care system more efficient. If doctors and nurseshave easier access to patient records, that would reduce duplication,freeing up money to be spent on other things.

Second, he plansto make public buildings more energy efficient. This is one policy thatshouldn’t be controversial, but then again, Obama is about to takecharge of a country in which millions believe the world is 6,000 yearsold.

Third, he plans to put “new computers” in the nation’s classrooms.

Thankfully,there was no talk of subsidizing airlines or the automotive industry.That’s not to suggest Obama won’t shell out billions on money-losingcorporations who have little to offer other than connections inWashington an economic stimulus package focussed on programs that won’taccelerate the melting of the glaciers.

His pledge to getelectronic health records in every doctor’s office sounds a tad overlyoptimistic. So does hisstatement during his campaign that he “believes” he can get “broadbandto every community in America.”

Getting everyelementary school pupil connected to the Internet will not necessarilyincrease their tech savvy. The ability to use computers and conductonline research is something everyone should have. A plan to teachcomputer programming to every student might do more to help alleviateskills shortages 15 years down the road.

Overall, when it comesto technology, the incoming American president is saying all the rightthings. If he can actually walk the walk, then the U.S. should be ingood hands for the next several years.

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