Public Service Announcement: I interrupt our regularly scheduled technology content for a discussion of government policy. If that’s of no interest, just skip this post. Regular tech posts will resume shortly.
I spent the early part of this week in Washington, D.C. in meetings with legislative and executive staff on issues relating to the software industry. I’m glad you’re still with me. What our government does (or doesn’t do) affects us. We should pay attention.
ACT Online wrote about the event here. Morgan summarized the focus of the event quite well. Rather than repeat the main concepts, I’ll discuss my own experience from the perspective of a developer and business owner in Michigan.
The software industry is one of the main bright spots in our economy. It’s continuing to grow. The jobs the software industry creates are high-paying jobs. I went to Washington to help ensure that our policy makers understand that they have both a positive and a negative impact on our industry. The software industry is still young, and we are constantly creating new applications and new technology ideas that open up new areas of innovation. This industry has been especially instrumental in Michigan’s recovery. New businesses, like ours, have grown over the past 10 years. Larger companies are making new investments in software. The renewed investment in Detroit is almost completely due to software companies. Public policy affects the environment for new businesses, influences society and education, and creates the regulations that govern our commercial interactions.
Overall, our message is that government has an important role to play by allocating public resources, like spectrum. It also has an important role to play in regulation. We want consumers to feel safe when they interact with software companies, whether those companies are large corporations or small one person startups. Finally, and most importantly, we know that government has an important role to play in creating a society where people have the skills and talent to help the software industry keep growing.
That last item is the most important, in my mind. We had a fantastic meeting Monday morning with Danny Weitzner, President Obama’s Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy. (As an aside, when 30 tech people have a meeting at the White House, they all get some impressive bragging rights on FourSquare). One of my key messages there involved education and building the talented workforce we need. There is a lot of discussion around STEM fields, and ensuring that more young people become interested in these fields. Much of that discussion misses the mark. There seems to be an emphasis on training for a specific job (Java programmer, iOS programmer) rather than careers (software application development). Our software programs are created by teams with diverse skills: artists, designers, User Experience experts, developers and more. The game industry includes script writers, musicians and engineers. While we need people with specific skills, we need creative people that can come up with new ideas and implement them even more. Changes to our education system must address math and science. More than that, it must create life-long learners that have the breadth of knowledge and the creative skills to create the next Instagram, Facebook, Google or Microsoft. When we hire people, we ask questions that are outside the realm of simple coding questions. We want to know if you can think about problems, come up with new ideas, make new products that people haven’t even thought about wanting. I was really excited to see Mr. Weitzner latch onto that concern.
Overall, it was a great trip, and a great way to take my perspective on our industry to our governmental leaders.