Regardless of what side of the political aisle anyone hails from, there is some general agreement that more needs to be done by the next President of the United States to make sure the U.S. remains competitive from a technology perspective. The exact details may vary, and there is certainly not going to be much agreement about how to pay for it. But in general, politicians are starting to understand that the future of any country is now directly tied to how technically astute its people are.
For this reason alone, a proposal to make the U.S. more technologically competitive published by the Hillary Clinton campaign this week is worth noting. Clinton, among other things, makes a case for the government to make a variety of STEM investments, including:
- Training more than 50,000 computer science teachers by collaborating with the private sector and non-profits.
- Making sure every student has access to computer science training in high school. The campaign notes that today less than one in five high school students has taken any computer science courses.
- Rebooting government job training programs to better align them with industry needs and job requirements.
- Providing mentoring and training to 50,000 entrepreneurs who would also receive access to capital from the government to start businesses all across the country.
- Making it simpler to share technology innovations funded by the government with the private sector.
- Making it easier for technology professionals to become U.S. citizens.
The Clinton campaign notes that more than half a million technology jobs went unfilled last year—and by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer-science related jobs in America, with only 400,000 computer science graduates to fill them. Obviously, with an eye towards the next election, Clinton would not only like to close that forecasted gap, she would also like to spread the wealth around. The campaign notes that 70 percent of all venture capital funding is going to three states, with 40 percent going to one specific region.
With perhaps the notable exception of a hot-button issue like immigration, the Republican platform as it emerges before the convention is likely to address many of these same issues. For the moment, however, Donald Trump has yet to set a technology agenda.
It's time for IT service providers to weigh in
Regardless of their political persuasion, IT service providers should lend their technical and business acumen to these campaigns. Politicians need to really understand where technology is likely to have the biggest economic impact. For example, many of those highly touted open technology positions are likely to become outmoded as more IT functions become automated. The country as a whole would be better served by increasing the number of programmers that can create digital business applications than training a new generation of systems administrators who may not be able to find a job when they get out of school.
The good news is that technology policy is finally becoming a mainstream political issue. Politicians may not really understand all the ramifications of those policies, but both in the U.S. and around the globe politicians are starting to realize that the global economy as a whole is going digital. In fact, from an IT perspective this is now both the most exciting and, conversely, scariest of times. No one knows for sure what impact technology is going to have on the job market. Whole swaths of job categories may simply disappear. New ones will naturally arise. But as yet, no one can be sure want kinds of qualifications will be needed to fill those jobs.
Chances are, however, almost every new high-paying job will require some basic understanding of computer science. The most prudent thing governments can do now is prime the computer science pump by turning out as many computer science graduates as possible. At the very least, the pool of IT talent available to IT services providers will increase. At the very most, those graduates will be better equipped to deal with the wave of rapid digital innovations that is about to transform every aspect of the global economy.