Tech Advice for the Next U.S. President: Seattle and Boston Leaders Weigh In

Whether it’s John McCain or Barack Obama, what should the new American president do to promote technological innovation and global competitiveness? Computerworld asked a collection of tech luminaries from around the country for their advice, and published their thoughts today. Here are contributions from three info-tech experts in Xconomy cities.

Rick Rashid, senior vice president at Microsoft and head of Microsoft Research, writes, “Over the past 10 to 15 years, there has been a retreat from the successful research investment strategies of the past—strategies that created modern computing and the Internet.” Rashid advises that the new administration “work toward restoring a balanced system of support for long-term basic research in science and technology with a goal of ensuring the future competitiveness of the U.S.” Specifically, he advises that the administration “work with Congress to eliminate or limit [noncompetitive] earmark funding for science, restore the ‘long-term risk-taking’ parts of DARPA to its 1970s/1980s form, and fund the American Competitiveness Initiative.”

Ed Lazowska, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington (and former chairman of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee), gives a five-point plan that begins with restoring integrity to U.S. science policy. “It is essential that federal policy benefit from the most complete, accurate and honest scientific and technological information available,” he writes. Lazowska also advises doubling federal investment in fundamental research over the next 10 years, making a “national commitment to science education at all levels,” making the R&D tax credit permanent, and using technology to address the critical challenges of the 21st century. That includes energy independence, climate change, global hunger, national security, and urban infrastructure. “None is optional,” he says.

Victor Zue, director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (and advisor to the U.S. Department of Defense and National Science Foundation), writes, “Advances in information technology and computer science…are the primary force that powers our economy.” Achievements like the Internet, mobile communication, and user interfaces “typically originated from university research and often took more than a decade to realize a $1 billion market.” So Zue says the new administration should “significantly increase its budget for long-term, fundamental research, e.g., by doubling the NSF budget annually for the next four years. We must invest in educating the next generation of [information technology] professionals.”

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