New institutions are key to responding to technology threats, just as they were during past crises.

WASHINGTON, DC – For the United States to succeed in outcompeting authoritarians in the technology space, it must deepen cooperation with allies and update processes that slow innovation and weaken democracy, according to a report released today by the German Marshall Fund’s Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative.

The report by Ambassador Karen Kornbluh and Julia Tréhu, The New American Foreign Policy of Technology, proposes three new initiatives to engage allies and stakeholders in its new industrial policy. It is released as part of the Modern Industrial Policy Project, which convenes a transatlantic government-stakeholder-tech industry network around a new agenda for democratic cooperation in meeting digital age challenges. 

“These new policies hold great promise for building more resilient supply chains, creating jobs, and safeguarding national security,” write Kornbluh and Tréhu. “Yet the current international economic system is not fit for purpose.”

“Democracies have a natural advantage in innovation,” said Kornbluh, “but new institutions are needed to engage domestic stakeholders and allies crucial to the contest with authoritarians.”

The US launched an ambitious industrial policy strategy including the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as controls on exports to China. Although it endorses working with allies on building resilient supply chains, or “friend-shoring,” it faces accusations of protectionism. At the same time, the public investment must incentivize, or “crowd in,” private investment and economic development. 

The following initiatives would engage the full complement of stakeholders in the contest with authoritarians:

Digital Policy Lab to foster innovation by serving as a platform for public-private-civil society partnerships

  • Spur government capacity-building in new technologies, such as AI
  • Serve as a platform for sharing data with entrepreneurs, labor unions, civil society, and local governments on government investments
  • Develop clear guardrails to enable innovation and democratic accountability

Technology Task Force to enable resilient allied supply chains through “friend-shoring.” Just as the International Energy Agency was stood up to respond to OPEC’s oil cartel, the TTF would deepen government-to-government systems – in this case for building resilient supply chains for semiconductors, green tech, and critical minerals

  • Provide a trusted space to share supply chain data
  • Coordinate responses to shortages or vulnerabilities
  • Reconcile differences on export controls or technology standards

Declaration for the Future of the Internet, through which more than 60 countries committed to uphold an “open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet.” Promote this agreement in multistakeholder and multilateral organizations through the State Department’s new Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy

  • Work through the Freedom Online Coalition and other fora to combat internet shutdowns, censorship, and surveillance
  • Prepare for new cybersecurity challenges and develop standards 
  • Strengthen an information integrity strategy

The report is from GMF’s Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative (GMF Digital). For more information, please contact Tony Franquiz, External Communications Manager, at [email protected] or Karen Kornbluh, Managing Director and Senior Fellow, at [email protected].