It’s clear based on Barack Obama’s historic presidential campaign that technology and politics mix quite well. While Obama has already made history by sparking an unprecedented degree of voter engagement and fundraising that helped him to his eventual victory, he’s doing it again by naming the nation’s first chief technology officer.
Obama says the nation needs a CTO and he sees many technology initiatives as crucial to rebuilding the country’s broken economy. So how will the Obama administration change the technological landscape of the nation? The following are technology goals Obama has announced for his administration and their pros and cons.
1. Valuing Intellectual Property More Than Ever
“Intellectual property is to the digital age what physical goods were to the industrial age,” says Obama in his outline for using technological advances to bolster the country’s economy. According to his team, the Bush administration did not do enough to stop countries such as China from violating U.S. copyright law, which cut off millions of dollars in profits to Americans. The Motion Picture Association, for example, cites that nine out of 10 DVDs sold in China during 2005 were illegal copies.
- Pro: Better protection of intellectual property creates more American profits.
- Con: Heavier regulation and oversight of global trade may cause the United States to butt heads with foreign countries more often.
2. Diverse Media Ownership
Obama’s CTO will focus on better enforcement of antitrust laws, keeping media outlets from consolidation, which opens markets up to more competition.
- Pro: Stopping conglomerations of businesses may increase individual business growth and stop them from easily squashing competitors.
- Con: In some cases increased regulations may further hurt media organizations financially. Obama signed a resolution against a 2007 FCC decision to relax restrictions on cross-ownership of local newspapers and broadcast channels.
3. Net Neutrality
The duopoly that cable and phone companies have on the Internet has led some to think that these companies may eventually make a habit of manipulating Web traffic to benefit themselves and partner companies. The term “tiering” is used for a lucrative strategy of discriminating against certain Web sites and certain users who do not pay for a premium Internet connection. Many see net neutrality, the idea of keeping the Internet an open platform with equal opportunities for use and without bandwidth caps, as a way of preventing this. Obama’s administration favors preserving and spurring more open market competition. An offshoot of the net neutrality initiative is a campaign to expand broadband access across the country so that more users can connect.
- Pro: It leaves the Internet open to competition among all entrepreneurs who dare to step in the ring.
- Con: Internet service providers say without bandwidth regulation, current speeds on the Internet may slow because of excess use that the infrastructure can’t support.
4. Reform of the Patent System
Because the patent system as it stands today stalls the progress of so many innovations with lawsuits, Obama has laid out a plan to promote civic discourse by entering a citizen review process to the patent system. The Patent Trademark Office’s administration would then only dedicate time and legal resources to patents that do not pass the citizen review. The hope is that this decreases patent uncertainty and ensures that patent laws protect legitimate rights while not stifling innovation and collaboration.
Obama’s administration also plans for its $150 billion investment in technologies for a new green economy over the next 10 years and a new Advanced Manufacturing Fund to multiply the amount of patent submissions.
- Pro: Patents are introduced more quickly into a market ready to collaboratively invest in innovations.
- Con: The citizen review route may become so popular that patent holders who opt out of citizen review may still be held up by the Patent Trademark Office’s bureaucracy.