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Blog Post

#Tech2021: 10 Actionable Reforms the Biden Administration Could Take to Enhance Innovation, Strengthen Democracy

January 19, 2021
by
Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative (GMF Digital)
3 min read
Photo Credit: spainter_vfx / Shutterstock

Based off its #Tech2021 agenda, the German Marshall Fund’s Digital New Deal project proposes ten reforms President-elect Joe Biden could implement to strengthen democracy and immediately help ordinary people and communities.

Nearly all of these ideas can be implemented immediately. Doing so would improve lives, enhance innovation, and strengthen the fabric of our democracy. They do not require new federal agencies or a dramatic reorganization—simply a mainstreaming of technology and innovation into the working of government.

Supply Chains and Trade

  1. Build resilient tech supply chains: The United States should secure its critical technology supply chains by reforming the federal acquisition process. The government needs the ability to assess supply chain risk. Liability for security and resilience of technology should be shifted to prime government contractors.

  2. Negotiate a digital trade agreement to open new markets for American businesses: To protect and create American jobs, spur innovation, and compete with China’s digital authoritarianism, the United States and its democratic allies should set high-standard rules for digital trade that allow businesses to operate globally and reach customers beyond their borders.

Digital Infrastructure

  1. Provide citizens one login to access government services and build resilient data infrastructure to protect citizens’ data: To improve the delivery of government services, the government should create secure digital identities for individuals to access those services and build resilient data architectures that protect data from being hacked, hijacked, or altered.

  2. Finish building broadband networks to reach every American: With a universal broadband guarantee, the government would treat broadband as a public good rather than a private endeavor, would lower barriers to access, and make certain that public-service content and essential digital services are available to all.

  3. Establish a national green bank for green tech: Reaching the goal of 100 percent clean energy will require mobilizing public and private capital to build smart electrical grids, Internet-of-Things-enabled charging infrastructure, and other green-tech. The government should capitalize a National Green Bank to mobilize public and private capital to finance clean energy technology.

Workforce

  1. Allow portability of benefits, create universal occupational licensing reciprocity between states to create a more dynamic workforce in a digital economy: Digitalization has created opportunities for more mobile, flexible work, yet analog-age policies serve as barriers to Americans seeking new opportunities. The government should provide greater portability of benefits—such as retirement, unemployment, paid leave, retraining and skill development, and childcare—along with expanded licensing reciprocity to remove many of these barriers.

  2. Train a national tech strategy cohort: To prepare for a future in which national industrial strategy is as integral as military preparedness, the federal government should launch an effort to recruit, train, and maintain a cohort of tech strategists operating across the government.

Pro-Innovation Ground Rules

  1. Create new incentives to tackle online disinformation: The biggest platforms should develop a code of conduct including a new circuit breaker system—like those used to prevent market-driven panics and slow down high-frequency trading—to halt the viral rollercoaster and give platforms the opportunity to evaluate content before it reaches a mass audience and does irreversible harm.

  2. Implement a national open computing strategy: The government should provide subsidized cloud computing to lower cost barriers for scientific researchers, and allow the government to use its purchasing power to preserve Americans’ privacy by negotiating directly with cloud companies.

  3. Put on safety locks for predictive analytics: The government should establish a moratorium on the use of predictive analytics in the public sector, create transparency requirements for predictive analytics technologies acquired or used with federal funds, and require impact assessments of the risks posed by the algorithms at the heart of this technology.