Partnership with industry is essential for government technological success, according to congressional and industry leaders at a panel on Wednesday. The panel, hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) during the Republican National Convention, addressed technology and innovation in the Republican platform.
“This really is an issue of partnership between industry and government that really is languishing,” said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio. He noted that in the realm of cybersecurity, information sharing would be extremely important. “Industry has been somewhat reticent to share.”
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said that one major problem in this area was the ability of industry to communicate with Congress on the same level.
“I glaze over when someone talks to me about the intricacies of the tax code, just like some of the other members of Congress’ eyes glaze over when you talk about the tech industry,” Farenthold said, noting that tech people can sometimes get too in the weeds of what they’re working on.
Turner outlined three cyber objectives in which industry and government need to work collaboratively. The first is for industry to help identify the risks government is facing.
“Industry becomes more aware of the vulnerabilities of systems than government will be,” he said. The second objective is to find the bad actors that threaten those vulnerabilities. Finally, Turner said that government and industry should hold those actors accountable.
Panelists also addressed how the government can, in turn, assist the private sector on a national level.
“In the international context, the U.S. government is the voice of the private sector,” said Michael Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association. He added that the U.S. is one of the most industry-friendly governments, giving industry a veritable voice at the table in international tech talks.
Many panelists addressed the lack of skilled tech personnel in both government and industry as a leading problem in technological capability and enhancement. Erin Egan, vice president of U.S. Public Policy and chief privacy officer at Facebook, traced this problem back to education.
“We have a problem. We have a problem that people are not being educated in computer science,” Egan said. “I think we need to start with our educational system. We need to figure out a way to bring STEM into the classroom.”
Turner agreed with her assessment, adding that this might be another area in which partnership with the private sector would be a benefit.
“Those that are designing the curriculum don’t have the cutting-edge knowledge to evangelize those students,” Turner said, adding that industry could provide the insight needed to encourage students into technology courses.
“I do think that community colleges in particular are a bright spot,” added Farenthold, describing how some local businesses communicate their personnel needs to community colleges, enabling the colleges to tailor their coursework to get their students hired in those fields.