No matter who wins the 2016 election, the next president and Congress will face difficult economic and innovation policy challenges, ranging from stagnant productivity growth, to questions about government limitations on encryption, to building a workforce with the skills needed in the modern economy. ITIF hosted a panel of members of Congress and business leaders at the Republican National Convention to discuss how the next administration can work with Congress to address these issues and foster innovation and U.S. competitiveness.
The conversation began with panelists touching on the importance of global market reach for innovation-based industries and acknowledging the difficulties faced by technology companies and other innovators around the world. Erin Egan, vice president of U.S. public policy and chief privacy officer of Facebook, noted that many countries are implementing protectionist policies that could hinder global innovation because they are concerned about issues related to privacy, or do not respect intellectual property (IP). Accordingly, a lot of time is spent—by Facebook, as well as other industry leaders—educating policymakers worldwide about these tech policy issues. This was a running theme of the panel: Industry needs to become more effective at educating policymakers and the public at large about innovation issues.
Representative Michael Turner (R-OH) emphasized that when it comes to issues like cybersecurity or piracy, neither industry nor the government could succeed alone. Instead, they should work together to identify the risks, find the “bad actors,” and hold them accountable. The need to increase the efficacy of IP protection was agreed upon across the panel, with Michael Gallagher, president & CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, pointing out that today’s thriving industries were effectively created by good policy, and industry experts need to continue to work with legislators and regulators in order to ensure that innovation in all its forms will thrive in the future.
The discussion also focused on what must be done to improve STEM education for students. A recent ITIF report found that computer science education was woefully lacking across all 50 states, and panelists echoed that concern, particularly in the ways that this harms the future competitiveness of the American workforce. Representative Blake Farenthold (R-TX) said that one issue in increasing the number of Americans in the global technology and innovation space is the country’s “one-size-fits-all” education system, which he suggested would benefit from more choice.
Reflecting the overarching views of the panel, Representative Bob Latta (R-OH) stated that it was of utmost importance for the industry to work with legislators and regulators to make sure that they’re passing good legislation now in order to allow innovation to flourish. The panel covered a wide range of topics that emphasized the need for growth overall, with ITIF President Rob Atkinson concluding that the current political divisiveness seen on the campaign trail is a symptom of slowing growth. In order to work towards solving many of our economic and societal problems, the United States should focus on nourishing growth through innovation.