2014 / 31 January

The State of Technology in America

What Technology Issues Made the 2014 State of the Union?

Tuesday night, President Obama delivered the 2014 State of the Union address, a speech anticipated to be a call against inequality in America. Today, that increasingly means giving students and communities across America access to the technological resources they need to keep pace in our fast-advancing society.

Privacy is another emerging issue in the 21st century with news coming out this week that NSA surveillance also includes harvesting sensitive user information from mobile applications such as Angry Birds and Google Maps.

How did President Obama measure up on STEM education, privacy, and other technology policies in his address?

Full transcript of 2014 State of the Union address

Embedded in the speech

President Obama received praise from the tech industry for his mission to enhance broadband access and speed for thousands of schools across the United States and his support of patent reform.

He also advocated the launch of more high-tech manufacturing hubs and remarked on several tech components of national defense.

High-speed broadband access for schools

Obama announced plans to connect over 15,000 schools to high-speed broadband with the support of major technology and telecommunications companies in a clear effort to level the playing field for technology education in America.

“Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.” – President Obama

Last year, of the 30,000 AP Computer Science test takers, only 20% were female, less than one in ten were Hispanic, and a mere 3% were Black, according to College Board data compiled by Barbara Ericson

This inequality, at least in part, results because suburban and private schools are most likely to offer the exam. Another cause of the demographic disparity is that only 17 states accept computer science as a core math or science credit, according to Ericson.

Patent Reform

It was a single line of the speech and patent reform is not a new subject, but technology and internet businesses would definitely appreciate the elimination of patent trolls.

“There are entire industries to be built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel. And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.” – President Obama

High-Tech Manufacturing Hubs

President Obama also touched on his effort to launch new hubs for high-tech manufacturing that build private-public partnerships to drive innovation in areas like 3-D printing and jet manufacturing. This proposed plan was scaled back from last year’s speech and has drawn skepticism from conservatives who question whether enough jobs are created from these projects.

Federally funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. And that’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery. – President Obama

National Defense

Obama mentioned several tech components of our national defense discussing topics ranging from defense against cyberattacks to limiting drone strikes.

It should be noted that he had given an entire speech on proposed NSA surveillance reform the prior week, but it was nonetheless disappointing that there was no direct mention of the agency, but rather a general pledge to reform such programs.

His mention of cyberattacks was brief, but still signals an understanding of the shift in global warfare, one towards a war on information and technological infrastructure, the world takes on in an increasingly connected world.

Working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that privacy of ordinary people is not being violated.

Full Transcript of Jan. 17 speech on NSA reforms

Final Thoughts

I was most satisfied with President Obama’s call to increase access to high-speed broadband for over 20 million students, but still think he missed key issues emerging in the technology industry that directly affect Americans such as the debate over net neutrality and a lack of computer science in school curriculums.

I also believe that the NSA surveillance reforms did not get enough attention. Even though he had delivered a speech on this subject less than two weeks before the State of the Union, the privacy of Americans is an important enough issue to include when discussing the state of our nation!

Further revelations about NSA surveillance of mobile applications came out the day before the State of the Union address, but Obama failed to even name the National Security Administration in his speech.

Overall, I have to question any true reform efforts towards drone strikes and the NSA, and I’m not alone.

How do you think the President did addressing technology issues facing the United States? Comment below or tweet @JCPerrino.


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