Technical Chops Of The Democratic Presidential Candidates

On November 3, 2020, The United States of America will hold its presidential election. This presidential election will determine if Republican President Donald J. Trump gets another 4 years in office or if there will be a new Democratic President. The Democratic Presidential Candidates cover a lot of topics that they think are of interest to the American public.  For me that topic is technology. Specifically, the technology policies, the technology uses and the technology abuses in the private and public sectors.

Everything we do today and the foreseeable future is either directly, or indirectly related to technology. Thus, in this post, I am going to go through each Democratic Presidential Candidate’s campaign pages to know what they are saying about technology and then provide my own views. Here it goes…

In My Point of View:

The United States needs data privacy legislation at the federal, state and local levels. In order to create data privacy legislation, all levels of government and industry have to:

  1. Define what data is and isn’t
  2. Who (companies, consumers, government) have this data
  3. How data privacy legislation would apply when data is captured, at-rest, in-motion, in-between systems/apps, etc.
  4. Create global alliances across countries and regions
  5. Develop a course of action when agreed-upon rules are not followed

Let’s keep this in mind that even though Europe has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California has the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), currently, there is no data privacy legislation that is 100% global in nature.

In regards to taxing the organizations that sell consumer data, while on paper it seems alluring but the problem is that when most consumers sign up for ‘free’ services online (i.e., social media, email, etc.), they essentially agree to however the organization likes to use their data. Also, some organizations could avoid data taxation if they simply store and sell the data in a country that doesn’t tax them on data transactions. This, in turn, can create more problems for the safekeeping of the data.

In regards to putting extra government fees on megadeals (i.e., mergers, acquisitions, etc.) would although make the budgets bigger for regulatory agencies but, on the flip side, megadeals could become a rubber stamp just to collect higher government fees. In a megadeal, when organizations have to figure out if their deals would affect current and future competition, this would require a tremendous amount of time and resources whose costs might be passed on to the consumer in either price and/or more detailed data collection.

If a government agency is tasked with breaking up tech, this would require a big budget and expertise to truly understand what is happening in tech and it’s nuances in these companies. Asking these agencies to go break tech up would just create a mess especially when these companies always have the option to operate from another country whose rules might be more relaxed. Additionally, the government doesn’t pay well and to think that super-smart people will work for the government their whole careers are just foolhardy.

In My Point of View:

The Green New Deal focuses on creating technologies that can tackle climate change. While this is a good approach, I think in order to make it stronger, it is essential to look at the current impact of technology on consumers, how technology is marketed to consumers and the waste technology creates when it comes to energy consumption and physical materials harvested from the Earth. We also have to look at how recycling of technology works. Recycle should not be just a collection of technology waste and disposal, but it should be a 360-degree approach where the emphasis is on reusing old technology and technology parts. Also, we have to consider the impact to jobs when moving to a 100% green economy. The government could provide free training and job training which could help reduce some anxiety.

In regards to Broadband, it should be a fundamental right for every person to have access to high-speed Internet. While the government can help in creating the incentives to create the infrastructure for it, we have to be reminded that the monopoly of internet access providers is a very real threat.

In My Point of View:

Information and disinformation tactics have been used for a long time throughout human history. These tactics have taken on a new face in today’s digitally connected world. The idea that anyone can start disinformation on any social media website with a few clicks is concerning. Ideally, the private sector and public sectors would put checks and balances in place to monitor and ensure disinformation is not used. However, it is a threefold problem where disinformation production, disinformation consumption, and disinformation monitoring have to be dealt with equally. As humans, we are prone to biases and these get amplified once we are online. Additionally, we have to note that most social media organizations are for-profit entities and thus there are no incentives for these organizations to make disinformation dissemination a priority.

In regards to breaking up tech, to spur innovation and competition seems good on paper but what is essentially being said is that if an organization reaches a certain size then the government will look into breaking them up. This idea seems anti-capitalistic. Tech is an ecosystem and breaking up tech means disrupting that ecosystem. To be clear, because of these tech ecosystems, many small businesses have also emerged. Think about the small businesses that are able to advertise on Google to anyone in the world, think about small businesses that use Amazon to sell their products to a wider audience, think about small businesses that have used Facebook as a place to test their marketing strategies at a bare minimum cost. The ripple effects of a tech breakup have to be understood and studied thoroughly before going this route. Additionally, due to global reach and connected, tech is not bound to one geographical location. These tech organizations can simply pack their bags and move to more tech-friendly countries which means that not only will there be job loss but also brain drain.

In My Point of View:

For the climate change revolution to take place, we need to look at energy production as well as energy consumption. We can’t out-tech our way out of the imminent climate disaster. We have to look at energy holistically which means to make tough choices when it comes time to do so. But these tough choices don’t have to be at the expense of anyone. While it is true that climate change revolutions will create many jobs but what about the jobs that would be lost. We have to provide incentives for people to join the new green economy. No one should be left behind.

The future of Education requires us to think in terms of a lifetime approach to pursuing knowledge. In this pursuit, teachers, coaches, parents, and guardians play an important role in addition to the environment that we create for the students. To hamper a student’s lifetime success simply because they were born in certain zip codes is simply, cruel. Everyone should have the ability to pursue knowledge physically and/or virtual regardless of their situation. This is where technology comes into play. Technology can be the great equalizer not only in terms of pursuing knowledge online but also in terms of making students globally competitive. We have to teach not only the ability to use technology but teach the ability to enhance, modify, develop, and extrapolate what technology can do.

  • Michael Bloomberg
  1. Infrastructure
  2. All-In Economy

In My Point of View:

The US needs to update its infrastructure and create new infrastructure that enhances the quality of life for all its residents. Infrastructure is not only about roads, bridges, and transportation but it’s about technology as well. Technology infrastructure means fiber optics, networking switches, broadbands, various types of clouds and software. As long as we don’t include technology as part of overall infrastructure goals, we will surely become obsolete sooner than later.

In regards to creating jobs of the future, we have to make a decision about what future we want. A future without considering the effects of technology will not be a future at all. In the long term, most jobs can and will be replaced by technology. The question is not if but when and when is happening right now. The people who will be displaced are tremendous and its high time we take our heads out of the sand. As technology becomes more commoditized, jobs will be for people who not only understand the technology but who can also connect the dots through technology.

  • Pete Buttigieg
  1. Education
  2. Building for the 21st Century

In My Point of View:

When it comes to looking at the economy as a whole and other countries are doing. Providing technology education is important. What is also important is not losing those who pursue higher education in the US and then are forced to leave to their home countries. These people in those countries then compete directly with the US. This process can’t continue. Technology education can unlock the potential of a generation but we can’t forget those who will be left behind.

In regards to building for the 21st century, we have to think about where we are, where we want to be and what it will take in terms of initiatives from federal, state, local, non-profit, for-profit and academia. We have to think not only in terms of physical things but we also have to look at the happiness of our residents and the positive effects we can create for the environment.

In comparison, here are the technological achievements of President Trump so far.

Final Thoughts

While all of the above technology-related topics are important but what we are missing is a comprehensive National Digital Strategy that is agreed upon at the federal, state and local levels. What we need are legislators and regulators who understand the power of technology. What we need are people who know that technology can change the economy and even the government.

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Author: Khan

Speaker | Advisor | Blogger

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