Innovation

What Hillary Clinton's technology policy agenda means for business

Hillary Clinton wants to use technology to reshape America's economy. Her campaign just released a comprehensive technology proposal. These are the five most important things companies needs to know.

Image: HillaryClinton.com

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released her technology policy agenda this week. Her plan stakes out policy positions on a diverse set of issues, including an ambitious proposal to bring high-speed internet to 100 percent of the American public, investment in science and technology companies, strong support of net neutrality, and student loan debt forgiveness for technology workers.

The document embraced the internet as an American innovation, and outlined a plan to help make technology jobs more accessible. "America led the world in the internet revolution," the document declared, "and, today, technology and the internet are transforming nearly every sector of our economy—from manufacturing and transportation, to energy and healthcare."

SEE: Big decisions with big data (Tech Pro Research report)

While many items in Clinton's policy have been proposed by her, and by previous candidates, this is the first time tech issues have been fleshed out and combined as one comprehensive policy.

The Clinton tech agenda contains over a dozen policy bullets, under five key topics:

  1. Use technology to bring "good paying" jobs to Main Street.
  2. Bring high-speed internet to every American.
  3. Make sure America remains a technology leader by exporting products and encouraging the "free flow" of data.
  4. Establish and maintain rules that support business innovation and foster competition.
  5. Use technology to make the government "smarter, more efficient, and more responsive."

The nearly 7,000-word document distinguished the campaign as a tech-focused enterprise. The document served as a comprehensive set of values and specific technology goals, but lacked details like budget numbers and deliverable timelines.

Though some proposals, like a call for up to $17,500 in student debt forgiveness, play to left-leaning voters, many of the ideas in the Clinton agenda echo desires expressed by technology leaders, including a need to modernize cyber-defense policy, protection of business data, visa reform, and changes to the patent system.

The cozy relationship between Clinton and the tech industry makes sense.

Although the 2016 campaign has been defined by outsiders, Clinton is campaigning as a strategic and experienced decision-maker. Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt's secretive firm The Groundwork has advised the campaign since late 2015. Several well-known Silicon Valley individuals, including Steve Job's widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, are donors to the campaign, and in June Clinton was endorsed by Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, Elon Musk, Reed Hastings, and other tech industry leaders. In a recent statement, Hastings said, "Hillary Clinton is the strong leader we need."

The most important takeaways for business in the Clinton technology proposal are:

Close the Digital Divide

By working with a wide range of government agencies, Clinton aims to connect every American to a high speed network by 2020. The reasoning is that the internet is an anchor for both community and business. The more connected individuals, the more workers to fuel the new economy.

By directing federal agencies to consider the full range of technologies as potential recipients—i.e., fiber, fixed wireless, and satellite—while focusing on areas that lack any fixed broadband networks currently. Hillary also backs the FCC's decision to extend Lifeline support to broadband, and she will work to connect this policy with community-based programs that help citizens with enrollment, offer digital literacy training and expand access to low-cost devices.

Defer Student Loans to Help Young Entrepreneurs

The goal of reducing student loan debt for qualified entrepreneurs is to reduce the personal financial risk of starting a company and to provide entrepreneurship opportunity to the middle class. Loan protection would extend beyond founders to early joiners and would allow young tech workers to defer loans for three years with zero interest and zero principal.

For young innovators who decide to launch either new businesses that operate in distressed communities, or social enterprises that provide measurable social impact and benefit, she will offer forgiveness of up to $17,500 of their student loans after five years.

SEE: Choosing the right tech for your company's future (Tech Pro Research guide)

Promote Cyber-Security at Home and Abroad

Business and government alike rely on privacy and data security. Companies devote an increasingly large amount of resources on information The Clinton policy aims to reduce hacking by brokering treaties, fostering democracy and encouraging trade, establishing international standards, and improving intergovernmental information sharing.

Cybersecurity is essential to our economic and national security, and it will only become increasingly important as more commercial, consumer, and government devices are networked. She supports expanded investment in cybersecurity technologies, as well as public-private collaboration on cybersecurity innovation, responsible information sharing on cyber threats, and accelerated adoption of best practices such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework.

SEE: Enterprise startups: The cream of the new technology crop (Tech Pro Research report)

Invest in Computer Science and STEM Education

The Clinton campaign believes that investing in technology means investing in education. In the document, Clinton expressed support for Obama's "Computer Science Education for All," an initiative that works to make sure public school students have access to computer science education. Clinton would expand the program and provide funding for 50,000 additional computer science teachers over the next 10 years.

Hillary will build on the Administration's initiative by launching the next generation of Investing in Innovation ("i3") grants—as sustained in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) as the Education Innovation and Research Program. She will double our investment in the program, and establish a 50 percent set-aside for scaling CS Education innovations. These new computer science grants ("CS-i3 grants") will help scale instruction and lesson programs that are demonstrated to improve student achievement or increase college enrollment and completion in CS Ed fields—helping us prepare the diverse tech workforce of tomorrow.

Attract and Retain the Top Talent from Around the World

America built the internet, Clinton argued, and America should continue to be the leader in technological innovation. That starts, the policy proposed, by improving the H1B visa system, providing support for academic and research institutions, and making it easier for immigrants to start a company based in the U.S.

Far too often, we require talented persons from other countries who are trained in U.S. universities to return home, rather than stay in here and continue to contribute to our economy. As part of a comprehensive immigration solution, Hillary would "staple" a green card to STEM masters and PhDs from accredited institutions—enabling international students who complete degrees in these fields to move to green card status. Hillary will also support "start-up" visas that allow top entrepreneurs from abroad to come to the United States, build companies in technology-oriented globally traded sectors, and create more jobs and opportunities for American workers.

Clinton's policy document also expressed support for net neutrality, a need to foster a more free and open internet in oppressive countries, the need to overhaul worker compensation and benefits packages, and a smarter, more efficient government.

SEE: Choosing the right tech for your company's future (Tech Pro Research guide)

Clinton's general election rival, Donald Trump, has yet to issue specific policy proposals related to technology issues. TechRepublic will analyze Trump policy when it becomes available.

Our team will report live from the upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland and Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia about technology policy. The coverage complements our ongoing Election Tech series. Through the remainder of the campaign TechRepublic will perform simple policy and data analysis. We hope to uncover unique insights and find ways business can benefit from campaign innovations.

If you're a data scientist, social media professional, or inquisitive TechRepublic reader we'd love your ideas on how to inspect campaign social media data. Please leave a comment below or ping us on Twitter @TechRepublic.

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About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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