by CIO Staff

Should Federal Government Have a Holistic Tech Policy?

Jan 11, 20052 mins

Should we look at tech policy as a whole, or is piecemeal serving us OK?

One thing that I’ve realized since I started covering technology policy is that people in that small community–including analysts, academics and journalists like me–take it for granted that the field exists. People outside of that community–including just about everyone else, even the vast majority of policy makers–don’t think about issues like cybersecurity, broadband deployment or R&D priorities as having anything to do with one another. In this dominant view, technology innovations are the province of the field they occur in: Voice over IP is just a telecomm issue, for example. Of course, no one would dispute that VoIP is a telecommunications technology, but isn’t it more? The tech camp tries to put these innovations in a broader context: Information has become the bedrock of our economy and society, and these technology innovations are a part of the infrastructure that allows us to manage it.

Before getting to the heart of the post, let me acknowledge that the terminology here is not as precise as I would like. Sometimes it isn’t specific technologies so much as it is technology topics or problems. But the government takes the same approach to these as it does to an individual piece of technology, which is to hand it off to the existing agency whose mission it best fits, even if it is a bad fit. So the FCC gets to make policy about communication technologies like broadband, VoIP and wireless. On the issue side the FTC gets spam, Justice gets identity theft, and Homeland Security gets viruses and hacks under the cybersecurity banner. No one really looks at these issues as being part of a whole.

My question is, simply: Should we? Is technology, by which I collectively mean the various issues and advancements that could fit under that big umbrella, important enough that someone or some group in the government should start thinking about it like it is a singular topic area? Keep in mind I am not suggesting that we have a hands-on government that interferes with industry; it’s more like should the right hand know what the left is doing? I’m very curious to see where the CIO community stands on this, so please, comment away.