While the White House was busy deciding who should lead its technology policy, industry sources at a high-tech town meeting said they now expect more federal action in the form of tax breaks and other support.
Following the meeting between President Bush and approximately 150 industry leaders recently in Washington at which Bush named venture capitalist Floyd Kvamme as co-chairman of the White House Technology Advisory Council, attendees gave different impressions of the administrations technology agenda.
Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, said the president needs to follow up his technology town meetings with policy-based deliverables such as tax breaks, funding for research and development, more openness for importing foreign workers and exporting security products, and increased attention to how the federal government addresses its own IT needs.
Others said Bush did not sufficiently address issues like cyber-crime. In addition, some said, the presidents address was tailored to advocating his tax and budget plans.
"He turned it right back around to garner support," said Mike Lindseth, CEO of Wizmo Inc., an Eden Prairie, Minn., consultancy and application service provider.
"Im hoping they would advise him to really look closely to the issue of education," said Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif. Honda represents the Silicon Valley region, but technology constituents hail from both parties evenly, Honda said. "They all have different opinions about issues. Theyre not a homogeneous group."
Honda also said he hopes Bush and the Cabinet will consider more funding for academic research, not just in high technology but also for core science. "Schools are an institution that should be in front of change, but were way behind," he said.
Honda said, "The Clinton administration had seen the import of partnerships between government and high tech. ... I think that Mr. Bush will be more dependent, whereas Gore was more of a partner in the thinking."
Honda did agree with the president on one point: the formation of a federal set of guidelines for measuring technology education standards in states and localities.
"If we want schools to be accountable, we should set up a system to help them and guide them," he said.
Besides the selection of Kvamme, Bush has two major technology personnel announcements still to make: He will choose an official White House science adviser, who will double as the advisory councils co-chairperson, and he will select the first-ever CIO for the federal government. None of the three posts will be equivalent to a technology czar post, White House officials said.
In a conference call with reporters, Kvamme elaborated on what he expects to provide, albeit as a part-time volunteer. By his serving as a liaison among the president, his Cabinet and the high-tech industry, Kvamme said, the country can better address issues such as education, export control policies, intellectual property rights, online privacy, R&D and Internet taxes.
Also, Kvamme said, the job of the experts he and the science adviser will lead is to address the tasks they are assigned to by the Bush administration—not to decide what needs addressing. This format will help avoid the self- interests that often plague technology industry trade groups, he said.
Kvamme, a partner in the Menlo Park, Calif., venture capital company Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, will not be paid for the part-time job.
"I can think of no better coordinator than Floyd," Bush said in his 25-minute speech, which did not include a planned question-and-answer session. "He is an entrepreneur, he is a risk taker; he understands risk and reward. But more importantly, he knows the players, the people that can bring good, sound advice to this administration."
"[Bush] understands that not only is he the leader in the economy in the world, hes the leader in the New Economy," the technology associations Miller said from his Arlington, Va., office. Regarding Kvammes selection, Miller said, "Its a coup for the industry."
"Bush definitely expressed a continuing and sincere interest in technology as it affects the country. From our perspective, were getting our fair share of time," said Laura Ipsen, worldwide director of government affairs for Cisco Systems Inc., of San Jose, Calif. "Theres been a great deal of early outreach" on Bushs part, Ipsen said.
"One of the things this group can do is form subgroups in specific areas," Kvamme said. "Were not going to pretend that 15 or 20 people have all the answers. ... Good policy makes a good playing field for industry."