On Monday the Trump administration’s American Technology Council (ATC) met in order to discuss goals. The purpose of the council is to allow federal agency leaders to seek out the advice of leaders in the tech industry on a range of issues.
While the Trump administration differs from previous administrations in many ways, its focus on updating outmoded technologies and speeding up the government’s transition to digital is something that’s been shared by past administrations. The ATC itself, however, is new, as is the goal of updating technology in order to eliminate programs and services.
Chris Liddell, formerly of Microsoft and GM, heads up the ATC. Present for the meeting were representatives from Alphabet, Microsoft, Mastercard, IBM, Intel, Qualcomm, VMware, Oracle, and Adobe. Notably absent were Facebook and Tesla — according to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg had a conflict and could not attend. However, Elon Musk has pulled Tesla from the council in the wake of President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Accord — a decision that has been almost universally condemned in the tech community.
The other tech leaders have remained on the council because they agree it’s important to create a more tech-savvy government. The White House says it will prioritize digitizing government services, improving cyber security, and transforming the way government buys technology. The White House is also interested in using new technologies like big data and machine learning to tackle issues like illegal immigration and federal resource fraud. How willing tech leaders will be to help the administration achieve these goals remains to be seen.
Technology not only has the potential to make the government more efficient and lower costs, but it also possess many challenges from an infrastructure and regulation standpoint. For example, an invention that transmits power wirelessly could allow electric cars to charge while on the road. Would building new highways incorporating this tech be a good investment? Autonomous cars and flying cars are become more widely available, but the government has not yet set up rules and regulations for their use. Not to mention the current lack of policy around automation and artificial intelligence — both of which are rapidly becoming integrated into society.
Technology is quickly advancing, and every government would be wise to consider how best to utilize and regulate it. The ideas generated by the ATC have the potential to shape policies that could impact national debt, cyber security, and the development of new inventions. Let’s hope the minds that have revolutionized our tech can also improve our government.