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Federal CTO Chopra, CEA's Shapiro hash out government role in tech

Aneesh Chopra, President Obama’s chief technology officer, and Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, agree that there are things the government should do to spur the digital economy. But they don't see eye to eye on many issues such as trade policy and the stimulus package.

Aneesh Chopra, President Obama's chief technology officer (left) and Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association.

At a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show, they said that more airwaves, or spectrum, should go to commercial wireless companies so consumers will be able to tap into the Web over a flood of new wireless devices, including tablet computers, home appliances and cars.

The two agreed that broadband Internet access for all Americans is a key to getting people to adopt more technologies and solve issues such as health-care information technology and smart energy.

“The building blocks of innovation are critical to economic success,” Chopra said.

But Shapiro and Chopra disagreed on the role of federal regulators and lawmakers in spurring what they both called the “innovation economy.”

“The government is often a barrier,” Shapiro said. “High taxes and regulatory bureaucracy is a barrier.”

Shapiro said immigration has to be reformed to allow greater numbers of engineers and other highly skilled workers to come to the United States from nations like China and India. Trade policy needs to be changed so that exports can compete with goods from other countries that are being sold cheaper on international markets, he said. Shapiro also described the $787 billion stimulus act as “panic spending.”

“We don’t have to agree on every issue, but we can say we always have room for improvement to spur innovation and entrepreneurship,” Chopra said. “The private sector creates jobs and entrepreneurial activity. Where we have opportunities to intervene we will.”

But Chopra said the federal government sees its role not as a financier of high-tech firms. Instead, he said the administration wants to help unleash new technologies by using levers in Washington to help spur better data collection for local and federal governments, smart grid technology and education.

As part of the administration’s education and technology push, Intel committed $200 million to go to training teachers in math and science.

“The building blocks of innovation is critical to economic success,” Chopra said.

By Cecilia Kang  |  January 7, 2010; 11:17 PM ET
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Posted by: robertchest08 | January 7, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Good for Chopra. Good for CEA. Government should stay away from seed funding high technology industries and focus on improving transparency and service availability through creative use of technology. Shapiro may be right that government does pose barriers to growth, but he would be hard pressed to find a more favorable growth environment than the US. Just see the World Banks "Doing Business 2010" rankings. Still, improvements are possible - quotas on specialized immigrant labor are labor market disturbances and inhibitors to growth.

Posted by: anoyce | January 8, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

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