Technology

White House looks to bridge gap between Silicon Valley and the rest of America

The White House is gathering technology leaders on Thursday to discuss how the industry aims to drive economic growth in emerging technology areas like wireless broadband and drones.

Administration officials from the Office of Science and Technology Policy will bring in leaders from 25 technology companies and venture capital firms for an event titled "American Leadership in Emerging Technology."

The meeting is part of "tech week," an initiative aimed at bolstering the Trump administration's relationship with the technology industry - which has been contentious - and the administration's own information technology infrastructure.

Thursday's event at the White House departs from tech week's previous focus on modernizing technology within the federal government and instead will focus on "outward facing tech policy" and "defending America's leadership in the technology economy," senior Trump administration officials said on Wednesday.

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, is slated to be at the event on Thursday, along with other administration officials and advisers including National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios and first daughter Ivanka Trump, who is married to Kushner.

The tech leaders will break into three working groups to discuss drones, 5G wireless broadband and the Internet of Things (IoT), and financing emerging technology before meeting with Trump to discuss the breakout sessions.

Leaders in attendance will include Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure, General Electric Co. CEO Jeff Immelt and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, along with representatives from other companies and venture capital firms who work in the broadband, IoT and drone spaces.

Administration officials told reporters ahead of the event that there would be an emphasis on figuring out "ways in which we can expand geographic diversity and tech investment" to areas outside of major technology hubs like Silicon Valley, New York and Boston. They will also discuss ways that the "tech industry can better access diverse pools of talent."

"The tech industry misses out on talent and opportunities when it focuses on major cities and leaves the rest of America behind," an administration official said. To emphasize that point, Trump was in Iowa on Wednesday to discuss technology in America's heartland.

The White House is looking at 5G comes amid its development of an infrastructure plan, which is set to include unspecified broadband provisions.

Ray Starling, a special assistant to the president for agriculture, said that the administration was looking into ways to help bolster ailing, rural broadband services.

Starling didn't offer specifics but said that the conversations were "high-level" and that they would strongly consider congressional input on integrating broadband as a part of an infrastructure package.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who has made increasing access to broadband in rural areas a focal point of his tenure at the commission, will also participate in the meeting.

The White House reinforced its desire to make strides in broadband on Wednesday.

"Broadband is going to be a very important part of the conversation in emerging tech. We're excited to include that in the bigger picture of 5G," a senior administration official said.

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