Biden, Trump run on similar tech platforms. Differences are in the details. – CIO Dive

Business tech leaders can expect more opportunities for public sector collaboration and investments in R&D over the next four years no matter who wins on Tuesday. 

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden laid out their views on technology while on the campaign trail, and for two divided candidates the future of tech has striking similarities. 

Trump and Biden don’t necessarily agree on the details of tech investment and government involvement, but each candidate understands the necessity of investing in emerging technology and bolstering the IT workforce.

Investing in innovation

This year, Trump and Biden have campaigned on R&D investments to fuel tech innovation. 

“We certainly expect each candidate to put more money into AI research. That’s a big growth area,” said Darrell West, VP and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. “Cloud computing certainly will continue to be very important. Mobile applications will be important, and there will be more government supportive efforts to build those particular applications.”

As a part of Trump’s “innovate for the future” platform, the president plans to spend a second term investing in creating the “world’s greatest infrastructure system,” 5G and wireless internet nationwide, building Space Force, and other efforts. Trump’s philosophy on innovation has been to reduce government barriers to fuel private sector initiatives. 

Throughout Trump’s administration, the White House has continued to push for increased government funding for emerging technologies. The president’s fiscal year 2021 budget from February called for doubling investments in artificial intelligence and quantum information sciences by 2022. 

While Trump has pushed for R&D efforts in what the administration calls industries of the future — AI, 5G, quantum computing and advanced manufacturing — budget proposals to Congress have largely slashed other government investments in science and tech among civilian agencies. 

Biden’s “innovate in America” platform outlines billions of dollars in new investments to expand R&D. If elected, Biden is planning a $300 billion fund in R&D and “breakthrough technologies” such as 5G, AI, and lightweight materials. 

The former vice president’s goal is to “unleash high-quality job creation in high-value manufacturing and technology,” according to the platform.

The R&D investments are anticipated to help the country compete with tech efforts in China. As China uses state subsidies to advance its tech interests, America should also accelerate its R&D, according to Biden’s platform. 

More opportunities for public-private partnerships 

Business can also expect more collaboration with government entities on tech projects in the next four years.  

Under Trump, the White House launched efforts to increase industry, public sector, and academic collaboration on tech. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s National AI Research and Development Strategic Plan calls for expanding public-private partnerships to accelerate advancements in AI development. 

The Trump administration has tapped private sector leaders to fill key roles as a part of its effort to improve the relationship between government and industry. Margaret Weichert, former deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, who led the President’s Management Agenda frequently called on agencies to look to industry on tech and innovation efforts. 

Biden is looking to expand manufacturing innovation partnerships between the federal government, private sector, and academia. His platform calls for a scaled-up version of the Small Business Innovation Research program — colloquially called “America’s seed fund” — to provide more government capital to businesses commercialization R&D efforts through work with research institutions. 

The main difference between the platforms is how the partnerships would work. 

“The big difference in how libertarian the two candidates would be,” West said. “A Trump administration would continue to delegate a lot of innovation decisions to private companies … In a Biden presidency, there will be a stronger government role.”

Split on tech regulations

The biggest disparity between what the tech industry can expect from Biden and Trump administrations is how each candidate is likely to approach regulation. 

Deregulation has been a “hallmark” of Trump’s first term, while a Biden presidency would put an end to the “era of permissionless innovation,” West said. A second Trump term will likely include more mandates around tech that aren’t required to be enforced, but a Biden administration will use enforceable regulations to reel in tech, according to West. 

There are, however, some exceptions. The Trump administration has taken on Google via antitrust efforts through the Department of Justice and pushed back against Chinese-owned platforms TikTok and WeChat. 

In a joint memo with Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Biden called for breaking up corporations such as big tech companies “as a last resort” and only if regulators determine those businesses “are using their market power to engage in anti-competitive activities.”

Building a tech and cyber workforce 

To support the innovation and collaboration efforts, the candidates are looking at ways to build the tech and cyber workforce for the future. 

Showcasing interest in building a federal tech workforce, a Trump executive order in June called for skills-based, rather than degree-based, hiring specifically for jobs related to emerging technologies. A May 2019 Trump executive order called on the federal government to maximize IT and cybersecurity capabilities of the American workforce through civilian agency efforts. 

In another Trump workforce effort, a collaboration with the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy established 12 hubs for R&D workforce development in emerging tech. 

Despite those workforce efforts, the Trump administration has also restricted immigration through H-1B visas, limiting the number of highly skilled tech workers moving to the U.S. 

Under Trump, the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security implemented pay, visa length, and degree restrictions for immigrants seeking out H-1B visas and slowed H-1B visa application processing

Biden said in a June townhall ending H-1B visas “will not be in my administration.” In his 2020 platform, Biden promises to support “expanding the number of visas offered and eliminating the limits on employment-based green cards by country” under a reformed visa system that protects workers. 

Biden’s platform underscores an interest in investing in tech career pathways for under-represented communities in the field, specifically women and workers of color. Through funds sponsored by the Department of Labor, the federal government would invest in digital, statistical and technological skill training programs, according to the platform. 

Section 230

Debate around whether the enforcement of Section 230 should continue is a common thread in tech policy conversations this election cycle largely, due to censorship and misinformation allegations on social media. 

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects social media platforms and websites from liability for what users post and allows those platforms to remove any objectionable content regardless of the First Amendment, with some exceptions. 

No matter who wins in November, Section 230 reforms are likely in the coming years, but it’s hard to predict what exactly that would look like, said Cristin Monahan, cyber vault fellow at the National Security Archive.  

“Both President Trump and former Vice President Biden have said that they want to get rid of certain protections under Section 230 with President Trump going as far to issue the executive order on preventing online censorship,” Monahan said.


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