A Tech Savvy President-Elect
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Trolling the Internet, it seems that a preponderance of thoughtful spokespeople for the tech revolution support Obama. That should come as no surprise, according to Rob Atkinson, president of the scrupulously nonpartisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington-based think-tank. Conservatives traditionally have placed less importance on technology than liberals, says Atkinson. Then, too, "Obama has actually said more about it, and devoted more time to it."
But Atkinson argues that net neutrality is way overblown, even when it comes to tiered pricing arrangements that give some websites faster speeds than others. "It's possible that small businesses could be a little worse off, but I don't think it's as dire as some people make it out to be," says Atkinson. "And broadband speeds are getting faster now, so it will become a moot issue pretty soon."
Obama's proposal to double federal science funding is just as critical, according to Atkinson. "Seventy-seven out of 88 important innovations in 2006 had some federal involvement," he says. "That does suggest that having a robust federal research enterprise is important to small business innovation." However, while total R&D investment as a share of GDP has increased in other countries since at least 1991, it has remained flat in the U.S., and the government's share has fallen.
Expanding broadband access to rural areas and providing service to low-income households is crucial to developing our economy, according to Atkinson. It empowers consumers, improves productivity for businesses, and fosters stronger economic growth -- including more start-ups -- for the communities that have it. However, we lag behind other developed nations in broadband penetration: the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks the U.S. 19th, while the ITIF puts us 15th. Atkinson believes that Obama is committed to serving low income and rural people with broadband.