Is Congress really that far behind on tech policy? No.

Over the past few years, America’s tech community has found itself in the middle of some high-profile and contentious debates. And, after a bitterly contested midterm election, with Democrats preparing to assume control of the House of Representatives, Congress will undoubtedly be focusing on a few different agenda items over the next two years. While changes in government often spell dramatic changes in priorities for certain industries, it is unclear what exactly these changes will mean for the tech industry.

Still, there are some things we already know. For example, we know that government officials – in both Congress and the executive branch – have had to face more tech issues than in previous years. And C-SPAN coverage of recent tech hearings might lead people to believe that Congress is alarmingly behind when it comes to tech knowledge. But, with a tech community that is more engaged than ever in working with policymakers to build and sustain a vibrant technology ecosystem in the United States, we’re not as bad off as the hearing coverage may make it seem.

{mosads}With this renewed participation in mind, there are several matters that will likely be the center of tech policy debate in the next 24 months. First, there’s the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA), a bipartisan bill that was recently signed into law. This law was championed by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and designed to improve the federal government’s delivery of digital services and enhance citizens’ online interactions with federal agencies. Modernizing our government’s IT is an effort that members of both parties and the tech community – not to mention the citizens that interface with federal agencies on a regular basis – are eager to get behind. This bill sets up several months of implementation by the executive branch and a better experience for citizens shortly thereafter.

Second, there are several privacy and data issues that impact the tech sector as well as every other industry in the economy. In October, House Democrats unveiled their Internet Bill of Rights as part of their midterm campaign. This will likely be a high priority – in the House at least – over the next year, and the tech community is already fully engaged on this matter. While some will undoubtedly couch this as an adversarial effort – the tech community vs. the government or consumers – that isn’t really the case. Most tech companies have been improving their products for years to keep up with consumer demands in this area and many in the tech sector are already working with Congress on these matters to ensure the interests of consumers are adequately addressed without unnecessarily stifling progress and innovation.

Third, we have the ongoing public conversation about cybersecurity. With the release of its report in November, the President’s National Security and Telecommunications Advisory Committee insisted that a “moonshot” effort, or a “unique convergence of political, societal, technological, and other forces” will be necessary to tackle America’s current and future cybersecurity challenges. The tech community largely agrees, and, if government officials intend to act on these matters soon, the tech community is ready to play a constructive role in what could be an historic effort. With the administration and Congress already firmly ramping up cybersecurity policy efforts in several fronts, the next two years are sure to be banner years in making progress on securing IT systems.

Fourth, digital trade has come a long way in the last decade. Once a completely forgotten or nonexistent part of trade negotiations, digital trade is now emerging as an important topic in every trade agreement. This was evident in the recent negotiations over the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement where the digital trade sections were far more advanced than the digital trade provisions being considered just a few years ago. This is good for consumers around the world because it lowers barriers to digital trade and removes an arbitrary rationale for blocking digital trade which is good for jobs, good for country economies and good for the world. Digital trade is here to stay and deserves attention when countries collaborate on improving the lives of their citizens. We should see marked advancements in this area over the next two years.

{mossecondads}Finally, there is an ongoing effort to improve technology education and training in the United States. As technological advancements and increased automation improve the quality of life for people around the world, technology skills and training – particularly those requiring a combination of technical and creative skills – will become exponentially more important. Several tech companies have worked to make these kinds of tools more readily accessible. And, if elected leaders want to talk about building the workforce of the future that can remain globally competitive for generations to come, they are likely to find many willing partners in the tech community.

The results of the midterm elections have created some new uncertainty, but Washington has been filled with uncertainty for some time now. It’s almost the status quo. Therefore, it seems certain these foreseeable issues and priorities will come up and have significant impact on the tech community in the visible horizon. This is not a bad thing. In each of these areas, the federal government and the tech industry have shared goals and common interests. So, if anything, we should be optimistic about the prospects for constructive cooperation between the government and the tech community in 2019 and beyond.

Jace Johnson is Vice President of government affairs and public policy at Adobe and chairman of the Information Technology Industry Council.

Tags cybersecurity digital privacy digital trade Internet Bill of Rights Ro Khanna Rob Portman

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