Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) presented bold plans at a Google (GOOG) - Get Report town hall meeting Wednesday to boost the U.S.' technology profile, vowing to create a chief technology officer to ensure America's continued dominance in tech.
It is no surprise that Obama chose to announce his technology plan at Google. He leads all presidential candidates in donations from the cutting-edge technology company. According to the most recent numbers from the
Center for Responsive Politics, his campaign has received $93,750, followed by Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) with $40,050 and Ron Paul (R., Texas) at $22,650.
Obama enjoys great support in Silicon Valley. His list of backers includes names like Michael Moritz (Sequoia Capital Partners), Steve Jurvetson (Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson), Mitchell Kertzman (Hummer Winblad and former CEO of
) and Ram Shiram (Sherpalo Ventures, a Google backer), according to
Barron's Tech Trader Daily. Moreover, security and investment firms rank fourth on the list of sectors that support Obama, and computer and Internet firms rank twelfth.
Obama's plan borrows from corporate America. His chief technology officer would oversee technology and innovation in his administration. The CTO would also be in charge of the federal government's interagency efforts, including ensuring network safety, best practices and the best available technology.
Furthermore, the plan will use technology to facilitate more open government by offering access to citizens. Citizens would have access to government data and be able to comment on local conditions in their community.
A big issue on the Internet is Net neutrality. Many in Silicon Valley and the blogosphere remain concerned that the Internet will become privatized and therefore lose the freedom of use we now enjoy. To counter this, Obama would encourage diverse media ownership. He hopes to avoid a situation where media outlets have a fast service for certain users and relegate the rest to a slower service. He plans to prevent the two-tier service by stopping providers from charging fees for content or access to Web site applications.
Another big piece of his plan is education and immigration. To compete in a global marketplace, America needs to improve our education system by upgrading our public schools' access to computers and broadband.
This will increase the number of science and education graduates, Obama contends.
Presently, China churns out 500,000 scientists and engineers a year, compared with 70,000 in the U.S. Obama also plans to expand the H1-B program. Technology companies press the government year after year to expand the number of these temporary visas to fill this gap and did so again this summer during the debate on immigration reform.
Finally, Obama sees technology as the answer to many of America's most pressing problems. Our health care system requires a dramatic overhaul that could be aided by a greater use of technology, he says. Tech will also prove useful in the fight to stop global warming. New industries will need to be developed to foster more climate-friendly technology. These upgrades have the most important effect: creating good jobs for Americans.
Obama's plans are a distinct contrast to science and technology under the Bush administration. Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, commented:
"Senator Obama's plan would help make sure that the Internet remains a free and open platform, and that America maintains an atmosphere of high-tech growth and innovation. We particularly share his aims of getting more Americans online, using the Internet to increase government transparency, and applying high-tech know-how to thorny problems like education and health care."
Obama's greater goal with the plan is to improve his pathetic poll numbers in California. Recent polls had him getting creamed there by Clinton.
Pollster.com graphs the polls over the last year, with Clinton enjoying a study surge and now garnering better than 50% of Democratic voters.
Obama will need to continue to be innovative. He faces off with Clinton and the rest of the Democrats tomorrow night in Las Vegas on