Clinton Unveils New Tech and Innovation Agenda

[Editor’s Note: This post was written by CRA’s new Tisdale Policy Fellow for Summer 2016, Satoe Sakuma.]

On June 28th, Secretary Hillary Clinton unveiled her “Tech and Innovation Agenda” which outlines how her administration will approach technology. The presumptive Democratic nominee is positioning herself as a strong supporter of the advancement and expansion of technology through education, entrepreneurship, and infrastructure. This agenda in many ways continues the Obama Administration’s efforts to expand federally supported research efforts and expand their impact on the nation’s economic ecosystem.

Of most importance to our community is her promoting of science and technology R&D. In the agenda she recognizes “the benefits of government investment in research and development (R&D) are profound and irrefutable” and plans to increase research budgets for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and DARPA. The agenda goes on to say that the country should make certain to remain international leaders in High Performance Computing, green energy, and machine learning. She also plans to create an easier, more efficient means of technology transfer, which is the movement of research and breakthroughs from government laboratories to industry for economic benefit and job creation.

Another section of Secretary Clinton’s agenda focuses on computer science education. Voicing her support for, and plans to expand, the Obama Administration’s “Computer Science for All” initiative. Clinton states that she will launch the next generation of Investing in Innovation grants and double the investment in pre-existing programs. She also plans on training 50,000 new CS teachers while assisting current teachers in gaining additional training to accommodate the projected growth. In order to support the expansion of CS faculty, Clinton promises to “improve CS Education certification pathways, and to broaden ongoing learning opportunities for CS teachers so they can remain up to date on the cutting edge developments in the field.” Addressing the issue of diversity in the Tech Workforce, Clinton promises to create a $25 billion fund for colleges with minority students and invest $20 billion to build a pathway for underrepresented youth through “models like linked learning, P-Tech, apprenticeships, and Career Academies.”

Additionally, to encourage advancement in technology, Secretary Clinton looks to “ensure the patent system continues to reward innovators” and deploy 5G technology to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) development. The idea being that IoT has tremendous potential to create jobs and improve the quality of people’s lives, and having the federal government invest in infrastructure now can speed the arrival of those benefits. To close the Digital Divide, Clinton states that “by 2020, 100 percent of households in America will have the option of affordable broadband that delivers speeds sufficient to meet families’ needs.”

A few questions and concerns were not addressed. Clinton outlines launching various grant programs, but does not mention how the new educational programs will be funded. Another possible seed for tension is her support for funding “commercialization capacity building and accelerator grants, and expand[ing] proven models like the Regional Innovation Program and the NSF I-Corps program,” by taking a small portion of federal research budget, which has been consistently flat funded or even reduced in recent years. Lastly, due to her unclear stance of “support[ing] efforts such as the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield to find alignment in national data privacy laws and protect data movement across borders. And… [to] promote the free flow of information in international fora,” there is likely to be pushback concerning the agenda’s position on privacy laws and encryption.

Secretary Clinton’s tech agenda is the first to be released by either candidate. We will provide an update regarding Donald Trump’s tech agenda once it is released.

Clinton Unveils New Tech and Innovation Agenda