GMF Digital Releases Collection of Immediate Tech Reforms New Administration, Congress Can Take to Shore up Democracy
Recommendations don’t require new agencies, can be enacted quickly
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), Next Billion Ventures Co-founder Chris Schroeder, Former Estonian President Toomas Ilves, GMF Digital Director Karen Kornbluh contribute
Washington, D.C. (November 19, 2020)—The German Marshall Fund’s GMF Digital today released a collection of turn-key, achievable tech reforms the incoming Biden Administration and new Congress can take to boost U.S. innovation, productivity and inclusion. The report, #Tech2021, includes more than a dozen recommendations from Democrats and Republicans, scholars, experts and others. GMF Digital’s Sam DuPont led the report’s production.
“These ideas can be implemented immediately. Doing so would improve lives, enhance innovation and strengthen our democratic fabric,” said Karen Kornbluh, the director of GMF Digital. “They do not require new federal agencies or a dramatic reorganization — simply a mainstreaming of technology and innovation into the working of government. In the coming months, we look forward to working with the new Administration and Congress to do just that.”
While much of the discussion of tech policy by the current Administration and Congress has focused on the thorny issues of regulating tech platforms or competing with China, these #Tech2021 reforms are ready to go, immediately helping ordinary people and communities.
“In today’s Fourth Industrial Revolution, technological change over the next thirty years will make the last thirty years look insignificant...The next Administration must have a comprehensive technology agenda to spur innovation in America, leverage innovative technologies within government to better serve citizens, mitigate the challenges posed by technological disruption, and work with our allies to ensure our democratic values drive development of these new tools.” said Congressman Will Hurd (R-Texas).
“The breadth and coherence of #Tech2021—honest, expert-led, digestible, and action-oriented—is astounding. It pushes us to stop sleepwalking toward predictable outcomes, and offers ideas that will light up conversation here, around our country and among our allies and partners abroad,” said Next Billion Ventures Co-founder Chris Schroeder.
The ideas offered up by the expert practitioners in this report are varied and specific. They include:
Supply chains and digital infrastructure:
Resilient tech supply chains: Harvey Rishikof, Ed Cardon, and Tom Hedberg propose securing our critical technological supply chains by reforming the federal acquisition process. They urge mandating risk analysis and shifting the liability for security, encryption, and resilience to government contractors.
A digital trade agreement: Sam duPont suggests combatting the rising tide of digital trade barriers and ensuring a competitive global digital economy through a plurilateral digital trade agreement that combines high-standard rules on digital trade with deepened services commitments across the digital economy.
Digital governance with digital identities and resilient data architecture: Former Estonian President Toomas Ilves urges two critical policy interventions: creating secure digital identities for individuals and creating resilient data architectures for government.
Civic infrastructure for the 21st century: Ellen Goodman lays out an ambitious agenda for building a 21st century civic information infrastructure through free or cheap broadband, digital distribution mechanisms to push information out to audiences, and protocols and tools to help users access data, verify information, and filter signal from noise.
A national bank for green tech: Reed Hundt proposes closing the gap in funds needed to convert to 100% clean energy by financing catalytic investments that drive private capital toward a clean, technology-driven economy that creates new, high-paying jobs. A National Green Bank would focus on directly financing clean energy projects, supporting state and local green banks, purchasing additional greenhouse gas reductions, and ensuring a just transition.
Updated work for a digital economy: Laura Taylor-Kale identifies three steps to bolster worker mobility and remove barriers to a more dynamic workforce: Universal broadband access, universal occupational licensing reciprocity, and greater portability of benefits – such as retirement, unemployment, paid leave, retraining and skill development, and childcare -- from job to job.
A national tech strategy cohort: Ian Wallace argues that if the U.S. is to pursue an industrial strategy it must hire, train, and support the civil servants with the needed skill sets to generate and guide these policies. These leaders must understand the economic context for these policies, have a sufficient background in the relevant science and technology, and possess the strategic mindset and skills to leverage that knowledge in developing and implementing successful policy.
Pro-Innovation Ground Rules:
New incentives to tackle online disinformation: Karen Kornbluh urges changing platform incentives so that expectations for fairness from the analog world – for campaign finance transparency, consumer protection, civil rights, privacy, competition - are honored in the digital world. For this new system to work, platforms should implement a new circuit breaker system to give them time to act. And a new PBS of the Internet should be created to support independent journalism.
A National Open Computing Strategy: Lara Mangravite and John Wilbanks argue the government should provide subsidized cloud computing to lower cost barriers for scientific researchers to analyze large data sets and allow the government to use its purchasing power to preserve Americans’ privacy.
Patent system transparency: Heidi Williams and Lisa Larrimore Ouellette propose creating a more favorable framework for innovation even without resolving broader questions about the costs and benefits of patent protection: clearer labeling of prophetic examples, and increased transparency in patent ownership.
Safety locks for predictive analytics: Rashida Richardson offers three ideas for preventing the social harms posed by predictive analytics technologies: (1) A moratorium and impact study on the validity of predictive analytics in government. (2) Transparency requirements including annual public disclosures of predictive analytics technologies acquired or used with federal funds. (3) Algorithmic impact assessments of the risks of these technologies.
Watchdog accountability for privacy: Quentin Palfrey addresses our patchwork of governance structures and accountability mechanisms with a three-part proposal: (1) Baseline privacy rules modeled on the Fair Information Privacy Principles. (2) Increased accountability through law enforcement and digital privacy watchdogs. (3) Training for developers based on an enforceable code of conduct
The complete collection of briefs can be found at www.gmfus.org/publications/tech2021-ideas-digital-democracy. Please respond directly to this email for more information or to be connected to the project leads.
About the German Marshall Fund:
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. Founded in 1972 as a non-partisan, nonprofit organization through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in Ankara, Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels, Bucharest, Paris, and Warsaw.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (Washington office)
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