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Tech groups want Trump to actually notice their industry

Grant Gross | July 21, 2016
The little Trump has said about tech so far has largely antagonized the industry

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for U.S. president, has antagonized much of the tech industry by opposing free trade and immigration but has otherwise nearly ignored this vital segment of the nation's economy.

As Republicans meet in Cleveland this week to officially declare Trump as their presidential candidate, several tech groups have called on him to release a tech agenda. The huge Consumer Technology Association has issued three press releases in the past week calling on Trump to outline his tech priorities.

The U.S. tech industry is "too critical to our country's future to be a policy afterthought," Gary Shapiro, the trade group's president and CEO, said in one release. Shapiro's veiled criticism of Republican Trump is notable after the trade group exec once accused Democrat Barack Obama of running "the most antibusiness administration" in his lifetime.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton released a lengthy tech-policy agenda in late June. She called on the U.S. to train 50,000 new computer science teachers over the next 10 years and to push green cards on foreign students earning advanced tech and science degrees from U.S. colleges.

In contrast, Trump has mentioned a handful of tech issues in passing during his campaign, and in most cases, his comments were antagonistic to tech companies. His lack of a tech agenda sends the message that he doesn't appear to care about those issues, said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a tech-focused think tank.

Trump should start talking about tech issues "if he wants to gain the support of the tech community and people who care about tech," Atkinson said.

Just last week, a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, company founders, engineers, and investors, in an open letter, said a Trump presidency would be a "disaster for innovation." The Trump campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on criticisms from the tech industry.

The Republican Party, during its convention this week, released its platform, and the 66-page document promotes several tech issues, including fewer regulations for the tech industry and using government to "cause diplomatic, financial, and legal pain" to countries supporting cyberattacks.

But the platform was written by Republican Party insiders, not the Trump campaign.

"Trump has not said anything [about most tech issues], so they're just painting on a clean canvas," Atkinson said.

The Republican platform is unlikely a blueprint for what Trump would do as president, added Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. 

"The reality seems to be that there is little reason to believe that the Republican presidential candidate and the platform of the Republican Party are mutually trustworthy as guides to what might actually unfold in a Republican-controlled federal government," Black said by email.

 

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