Technology and the New Administration

Today when I think of technology and politics it makes me a bit uneasy. No matter which way you lean politically, it can’t be argued that technology has played a critical role in determining the outcome in the current election cycle.

I will leave the analysis of how social media, fake news and foreign governments may have influenced the results of this election to the experts. Instead, I think it is worth considering how the consequence of the election may influence the technology landscape as our political climate changes.

First let me state that I don’t believe there is any real clarity in how the current administration will take the campaign rhetoric and enact policy changes that will have any meaningful impact on technology innovation, cyber security or patent rights protection. Additionally, changes to trade policy, science based regulations and net neutrality could stifle innovation.

So the question is how will the diversification occurring in northern Nevada be affected by legislative changes enacted by the new administration and the republican controlled congress? From where I sit today it looks like we must wait and see, once the chaos subsides and the smoke clears we will have a better idea, for now here are some points to ponder:

Cyber and Security – The government is obviously a big consumer of cyber and digital security, and the work that they do internally and through contractors can drive innovation in communications, security and compute. Their consumption is also a large line item on the sales sheets of technology companies around the world.

There is a good example of a local connection here in Reno, where a small software company was selling to the military and the 2013 budget sequestration essentially stopped purchases and dried up their sales.

Science Based Regulation and Funding – Big government goals like landing a man on the moon are often touted as drivers of innovation and technology. How the current administration approaches the government’s role in funding research or in applying research to real-world problems could impact science and technology for years to come. Early indications are not good, especially where funding for politically charged problems like global warming, pollution and health are concerned.

Funding research creates high paying jobs for scientists, researchers and academics. Many of these jobs go to immigrants simply because we are not producing enough talent, so we must fix that, but high school age kids today need to pay attention to career goals now and changes in funding for these fields could limit their choices.

Trade Policy – This is a tough one and I don’t have any specific expertise on trade, but I do have experience in the technology marketplace and I can tell you that the most every piece of technology you buy is sourced from parts made around the world. When I think about the local inventor sitting in a lab at UNR or Switch’s Innevation space, designing the next cool technology, at some point they are sourcing components or outsourcing manufacturing from overseas. How will that work and what will that cost going forward.

How technology, science and innovation will be impacted by the policies of our new President remain to be seen, but there is clearly more to consider than the simple hype of walls, immigrants and trade.