We've got ObamaCare. This October its ObamaCon, an event in Pittsburgh that is the latest high tech initiative from the White House.
The White House Frontiers Conference announced today is something of a swan song and a coda for the Obama Administration’s long string of technology efforts.
The one-day event is organized around topics that will hearken back to the President’s work in areas from climate change to revitalizing NASA, manufacturing and brain initiatives and improving STEM education. Obama will even serve as guest editor on an issue of Wired related to the event.
As its name suggests, organizers say the conference also will point forward to “building U.S. capacity in science, technology, and innovation, and the new technologies, challenges and goals that will continue to shape the 21st century and beyond.”
The Frontiers conference can shine a light on many areas that need investment and innovation. It also can act a rallying point for a very savvy politician.
“The event will put the president in a crucial presidential swing state — and one that is key to Democrats' hopes of taking back the Senate — less than a month before election day,” wrote The Hill.
The article posted today also quotes Obama ruminating on his post-Presidential future. “The conversations I have with Silicon Valley and with venture capital pull together my interests in science and organization in a way I find really satisfying,” Obama said.
To allay doubts about Obama’s record in high tech, the Administration posted a list of his 100 top achievements. It’s an impressive record that includes:
- Creating the posts of U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Chief Information Officer, and Chief Data Scientist
- Appointing five Nobel Laureates in science and 28 other members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and hiring more than 450 engineers, designers, data scientists, and product managers in more than 25 agencies
- Spending $18.3 billion in R&D as part of the Recovery Act of February 2009, the largest annual increase in R&D funding in America’s history
- Adding or improving more than 114,000 miles of broadband infrastructure under the Recovery Act
- Opening up since May 2013 more than 180,000 Federal data sets on Data.gov
- Creating CitizenScience.gov, a crowdsourcing vehicle for research agencies to work with citizen scientists
- Initiating more than 700 challenges worth more than $220 million on Challenge.gov to address problems ranging from Ebola to blocking illegal robocalls
- Setting up efforts such as the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the National Nanotechnology Initiative and the Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Program
- Launching a national network of nine manufacturing institutes, supported by more than $600 million in Federal investment and $1.2 billion in matching funds
- Creating the National Robotics Initiative that has raised more than $150 million
- Launching the BRAIN Initiative to develop neuro-technologies that has raised $1.5 billion in public and private funds
- And hosting six White House Science Fairs, two White House Astronomy Nights, and an Hour of Code at the White House
A quick scan of the EE Times archives reminds me of some of Obama’s accomplishments that resonate here in Silicon Valley. For example, Obama launched the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and attended in June its latest forum at Stanford where he interviewed a panel of young startup CEOs including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Under his Administration, Silicon Valley won a bid for a $165 million research facility for flexible electronics. The Department of Defense convinced tech executives from companies including Google and Apple to join a new organization to streamline government sourcing in high tech. And San Jose got its own patent office last fall, saving engineers millions of frequent flier miles to Washington D.C.
It hasn’t all been fair sailing for the last eight years. Only recently the U.S. withdrew a case against Apple for refusing to decrypt iPhones in a terrorism case that drew the Attorney General to speak at a major security conference here.
The IEEE criticized Obama for failing to go far enough with a 2014 action on high tech hiring of immigrants. The high tech industry is still split over an FCC action geared to reshape industry practice around set-top boxes. And only recently has the Valley recovered from a black eye after a government-supported solar venture went belly up here.
All in all, I’d say despite a few earthquakes, Silicon Valley and Washington D.C. grew considerably closer in the last eight years. The most daunting of all the frontiers ahead is the fall election and the prospects of a less tech-savvy president.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times