This is the second article in a series on "Entrepreneurship After the Election" that is running on Inc.com this week. Today, Elizabeth Gore speaks to Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) about the intersection of technology, entrepreneurship and politics.
You have a heavy technology background, which is rare in Congress. It is said only 10% of members have a STEM background. As a computer science major and your subsequent career in intelligence, what is the future of Congress advancing the technology needs of our country?
There is a severe talent gap when it comes to qualified cyber professionals and the needs of the country. In Texas alone over 40,000 computing jobs went unfilled. One of my top priorities in Congress has been to ensure that we're strengthening our cyber workforce by increasing interest in STEM fields and pairing technology companies with high schools and universities to place qualified students in these fields.
In September, I held an Information Technology Subcommittee hearing exploring ways that we can close the talent gap in federal IT. Through constructive dialogue with private-sector, education, and government leaders, we outlined ways to increase our nation's development of computer science professionals. Part of the problem is that students simply aren't being exposed to computer science in the early stages of their education.
One of my priorities this summer has been to help the schools in my district obtain the resources they need to offer computer science to their students. Once we increase their exposure to computer science, half the battle is won. Fostering an interest in computer science, and STEM fields as a whole is an integral first step to developing and sustaining a cyber and STEM workforce.
It is said that every company, no matter what industry, is now a technology company. How do you view the future of adoption of technology for small and medium sized businesses in America?
Technology is something that is beginning to augment every aspect of our day-to-day lives. A framework has even emerged to describe the increasing connectivity of everyday devices. Known as the 'internet of things', this framework examines the growing role of internet-connected devices in nearly every aspect of our everyday lives. From smart thermostats, to wifi-enabled vehicles and parking meters, technology and connectivity are becoming increasingly prevalent.
However, with increasing interconnectivity, we must be increasingly cognizant of the threats posed by these technological advances. The Mirai botnet that temporarily took down internet infrastructure company Dyn utilized these unsecure IoT devices, relying heavily on industrial CCTV webcams and DVRs. As a result, millions of device owners who had no idea that they were taking part in a cyberattack inadvertently impacted some of the most heavily visited websites in the United States such as Amazon, Netflix, Twitter, and Spotify.
We're making great technological advances, but it's important for small and medium sized businesses to understand that cybersecurity is no longer a term reserved for major tech companies. It affects all of us, large or small, at home or at work. We must stay ahead of the curve and continue to encourage and educate our businesses about both the tremendous potential and danger of a more technologically advanced world.
On that same theme - I know ensuring that our government has the up-to-date technology is a top priority for you. How do you view the future of adoption of technology for our government - especially so elected officials - like yourself - can better serve your constituencies?
In short, we need to bring our federal government into the 21st century. There are agencies out there that are still using codes and systems that haven't been supported since the 1970's - the horse and buggy days of computers!
I introduced a bill, called the Modernizing Government Technology Act that solves this problem by creating working capital funds within each agency, as well as a centralized fund, that allow agencies to take the money that they would otherwise spend on maintaining these outdated and legacy systems, and use that money to upgrade and modernize their IT infrastructure. We should not be spending 80 percent of $80 billion on outdated systems. This bill saves money, and helps our government modernize so that agencies are better prepared to serve the American people.
We were shocked to recently learn that almost half (45%) of global businesses surveyed fear they may become obsolete in the next three to five years due to competition from digital-born start-ups. Where do you see the future of digital in our economy?
The technical change we are going to witness in the next 20 years is going to make the last 20 years look insignificant. This is a great trend and America is leading the way - especially when it comes to entrepreneurship and innovation. We need to ensure that the Federal Government supports this innovation economy rather than be an obstacle to it. Digital technologies are expanding in nearly every sector of the economy. With our ability to do 3D visualizations industries like construction and healthcare are going to be significantly changed. Because of our ability to store and manipulate large amounts of data when we finally achieve true inter-operability of Electronic Healthcare Records we are going to save lives and enable people to live longer. Technology based companies already contribute trillions to the world economy. There is absolutely no doubt that these companies, as well as smaller and emerging companies, will continue to grow.
Every entrepreneur is now trying to figure out how cyber security fits into their platforms. How will Congress work with them to understand this new frontier?
Since coming to Congress nearly two years ago, I have been a staunch advocate of bringing Congress to the forefront of emerging technologies. As Chairman of the IT Subcommittee, I have been able to hold hearings on emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and cell-signal capturing stingrays used by DHS.
I cosponsored a bill known as the Modernizing Government Travel Act that ensures that federal employees can be reimbursed for utilizing innovative travel methods such as ride-sharing and bike-shares, as opposed to taxis alone. That's a minor example, but as long as we are constantly pushing Congress and our government to adopt new technologies, we can stay ahead of the technological curve.
Texas has attracted a lot of startups in the recent years. What do you see is an enabling environment for entrepreneurs?
Low taxes, fewer regulations and aggressive recruiting have helped Texas become ground zero for innovation. San Antonio has become Cyber City, U.S.A. with innovative companies like Rackspace, Denim Group and Codeup helping to develop an environment of innovation and development. With the 24th and 25th Air Forces at Joint Base San Antonio and NSA Texas just down the road, there are more cyber professionals in San Antonio than in any other city in the nation outside of the greater D.C. area. It's exciting to see my hometown leading the way and I look forward to continuing to find ways to encourage this kind of growth as their Representative in Congress.