Who Will Be America's First TechPresident? A Challenge to the Candidates
Who Will Be America's First TechPresident? A Challenge to the Candidates
BY Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry | Friday, May 18 2007
Who will be America’s First TechPresident?
As we enter the 21st Century our country faces daunting challenges. We must address terrorism, global warming, our failing healthcare and public education systems, our dependence on nonrenewable energy resources, and other looming issues. Meanwhile, our 20th Century industrial age economy is losing its ability to sustain our country’s financial health, leading many Americans to fear that we are going in the wrong direction and the next generation will inherit more problems than solutions.
At the same time, we are more connected than ever before and have more access to more information and more tools for identifying and solving problems than any generation in American history, thanks to the Internet.
As we prepare to pick the next President, we’d like to challenge all the candidates running to tell America: How should this public resource be used to make our country more competitive, more democratic, healthier, better educated, more secure and financially sound?
The Internet provides us as a country and as individuals with unparalleled powers to turn information into ideas and ideas into action. It links us to each other, and to our neighbors here as well as around the world, enabling us to organize to solve problems, transform our economy, help foster security, better deliver public services, and build our democracy.
As fantastic a tool the Internet has become and can be, it still has not reached every one of our citizens and our businesses. Only half of America has broadband access to the Internet, and overall we are falling behind other countries both in how many people have broadband and the quality of that service. The high-speed Internet has become a tool for the rich first, not because of any conspiracy but because the rich is where the money is. Market players have worked the levers of government to create a scarcity for Internet access when it is naturally abundant. We need to protect the Internet from the control of those who would prefer to make it scarce and guarantee that its value is delivered equally from the poorest to the richest citizen.
Therefore as we enter the presidential campaign season where the Internet is establishing itself an ever more effective way for Americans to participate in the electoral process, we are challenging each of the candidates to endorse a series of concrete goals to ensure that our country accelerates its transition from the industrial to the information age.
The following are very specific technology policy goals that we are asking every candidate to either endorse wholly or to offer alternative positions. It is time to find out who can actually claim to be the country’s first TechPresident.
1. Declare the Internet a public good in the same way we think of water, electricity, highways, or public education. The government has an obligation to enable low cost universal access to this resource. Regardless of market considerations, every American should be able to take advantage of the Internet for use in their lives and businesses. The Internet is the dial tone of the 21st century.
2. Commit to providing affordable high-speed wireless Internet access nationwide, along with protecting and expanding unlicensed spectrum for public use, and make the Internet a reliable part of our infrastructure so that it deliver on its next phase, transforming how we do business, learn, play, participate in our democracy, stay secure, and govern. Do this by creating an Internet Innovation and Investment Fund with a minimal budget of $20 billion (half of what we spend on highways in a single year) to guarantee and spur development of an Internet wireless broadband blanket and make sure the Net reaches every segment of our population. Once everyone is connected, new applications will emerge creating efficiencies in how our government delivers services, how emergency communications are enabled, how education and health resources are available, and how freedom of speech and participatory democracy are made real for every citizen.
3. Declare a “Net Neutrality” standard forbidding Internet service providers from discriminating among content based on origin, application or type. Companies that provide access to the Internet should not be allowed to provide content and services where they will be tempted to prefer their own over what is available from others. If we want the Internet to remain an open market for innovation and to lead us to a new leading competitive global economic position, we need an infrastructure that is not based on old models of telephone and TV networks.
4. Instead of “No Child Left Behind,” our goal should be “Every Child Connected.” The digital divide in our country is worse than it was 10 years ago before our schools were wired. Most public schools still have students visiting computers only for a few hours a week in computer labs. With every major corporation in the world connecting its customers, employees, and suppliers, to 24-hour networks regardless of whether they are using computers, cell phones, PDA’s, etc. providing them access to massive data resources, there is no reason we can’t build a similar networked ability for our students, teachers, and parents 24 hours a day to access the greatest libraries of the world. This will accelerate the professional development of teachers to use the new technology as well as transform education from being something that happens primarily only in school buildings into an ongoing process that facilitates learning moments happening wherever and whenever possible.
5. Commit to building a Connected Democracy where it becomes commonplace for local as well as national government proceedings to be heard by anyone any time and over time. People should be able read proposed bills before they are voted on, analyze them together, and contact their legislators and participate in the legislative process while it is happening. The culture of the Internet encourages transparency and citizens should have the ability to hold their elected leaders accountable not only so they can be “watchdogged” but so that the legislators themselves become more effective in providing information to their constituents.
6. Create a National Tech Corps, because as our country becomes more reliant on 21st century communications to maintain and build our economy we need to protect our communications infrastructure and be able to have an emergency response capability to establish emergency communications, rebuild networks and databases, and provide tech support for all relief and recovery efforts. It's time to create a "National NetGuard" of technically skilled Americans who can volunteer to be trained and deployed to respond to any terrorist attack or natural disaster. Part of this program should be the creation of a tech equivalent of the federal oil reserve, but for computer and communications equipment, that would be maintained by our country's computer equipment manufacturers in a revolving inventory and would be available to be used in an emergency.
The above policy ideas are not a complete list or are intended to be all or nothing in scope. They are designed to spur debate and to encourage even more ideas to flourish. Technology is no longer just a slice of the pie, it is actually the pan, capable of being a tool for change, innovation, and hope.
Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry
Founder and Editor
Personal Democracy Forum
If you support this call, add your name and identification/website in the comments.