U.S. Needs IT Makeover

Opinion: In several cases, it's not a matter of getting ahead but of catching up.

Its summertime. Although were not against a little downtime to recharge the batteries, the summer is also a good time to get ahead by means of self-improvement—and we continue to think the competitive position of the United States in IT needs a serious makeover.

Plenty of things need to be addressed without delay. In several cases, its not a matter of getting ahead but of catching up—and in todays global economy, we can ill afford to fall behind on any front.

One of the most obvious weaknesses of the United States is that our technology hubs are too expensive. Real estate prices that make it nearly impossible to rent office space and hire a work force and still remain competitive mean that areas such as Silicon Valley are ripe to be superseded by lower-cost nations.

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In response, we need to seek out regions of the United States that are cost-competitive. Indeed, some companies are setting up shop in Oklahoma as a domestic outsourcing location. A recent survey showed that the Mountain States are poised for a surge in IT hiring, and recent eWEEK reporting indicates that technology entrepreneurs should look beyond Silicon Valley and at cities such as Seattle; Charlotte, N.C.; and Atlanta.

But out-of-the-way U.S. locations wont be attractive unless there is more widespread broadband Internet access. As we noted earlier this year in this space, the United States lags far behind many smaller countries in per-capita broadband Internet access. We can and must do better.

But more ubiquitous broadband is just a beginning. The single most beneficial step would be the widespread implementation of IPv6 across the Internet. The Department of Defense is leading the way, but the security features of the protocol seem to us a business necessity as well.

An educational system that succeeds only for its elite students will not produce the kind of work force that will compete with India, China and other countries in the years ahead. We need to continue to encourage the pursuit of math and science studies to ensure that our children will have their chance on the world stage.

While we focus on protecting ourselves from terrorists through tough visa requirements, we have erected barriers that are preventing many people we ought to want to immigrate here—the worlds top technology minds—from doing so.

The number of foreign students on U.S. campuses is down, and the H-1B program continues to be a revolving door that lets foreigners work here for a few years before being sent home. Foreign students and H-1B visa holders can benefit our country as citizens—we should make that option available to them.

In short, we need a fitness regimen: affordable communities, a rational immigration policy, good schools teaching technology skills that will be needed tomorrow and a world-class infrastructure. Thats a lot. But we really cant afford anything less.

Tell us what you think at eweek@ziffdavis.com.

eWeeks Editorial Board consists of Jason Brooks, Jeffrey Burt, Larry Dignan, Stan Gibson, Scot Petersen and Lisa Vaas.

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