President-elect Barack Obama vows to "renew our information superhighway" as part of a massive plan to invest in public infrastructure and stimulate America's flagging economy. Obama's immediate plans include large federal investments to bring computers and Internet connections to school districts and the health care industry.
Again pledging his commitment to technology, President-elect Barack Obama
said Dec. 6 that investing heavily in computers and broadband connections for
schools and hospitals will be part of his immediate economic recovery plans
after he takes office Jan. 20.
Obama pledged during his weekly address over the radio and the Internet to
make the single largest new investment in national infrastructure since the
creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s. In addition to infusing
school districts and the health care industry with federal IT dollars, the plan
also includes a massive effort to make public buildings and schools more
The president-elect said he hopes a flood of federal cash to states for the
projects will ultimately create 2.5 million jobs.
"We will repair broken schools, make them energy-efficient and put new
computers in our classrooms," Obama said, "because to help our
children compete in a 21st century economy, we need to send them to 21st
Obama added that part of the plan is to "renew our information
superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United
States ranks 15th in the world in broadband
adoption. Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should
have the chance to get online, and they'll get that chance when I'm president-because
that's how we'll strengthen America's
competitiveness in the world."
In addition to connecting schools and libraries to broadband connections,
Obama promised a renewed push for health care IT, which President Bush has also
touted as a key to saving millions in health care costs. Bush's health
care IT initiatives, though, have failed to gain traction over costs, security
and privacy concerns.
"We will make sure that every doctor's office and hospital in this
country is using cutting-edge technology and electronic medical records so that
we can cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes and help save billions of dollars
each year," Obama said.
Obama didn't put a dollar figure on his initiatives, but he told Tom Brokaw
on "Meet the Press" Dec. 6 that a federal deficit that could be as
much as $1 trillion is not the immediate concern of his administration.
"We understand that we've got to provide a blood infusion into the
patient right now to make sure that the patient is stabilized, and that means
that we can't worry short term about the deficit," Obama said. "The
key for us is making sure that we jump-start that economy in a way that doesn't
just deal with the short term, doesn't just create jobs immediately, but also
puts us on a glide path for long-term, sustainable economic growth."
Josh Silver, executive director of public advocacy group Free Press, praised
Obama's decision to include technology as part of any economic plan.
"In our 21st
century society, having a connection to a fast
and affordable Internet is no longer a luxury-it's a public necessity,"
Silver said in a statement. "But right now, more than 40 percent of
American homes are not connected to broadband. This digital divide isn't just
costing us our ranking as global Internet leader-it's costing us jobs and money
at a time when both are urgently needed."