As President Bush exited Washington D.C. yesterday, President Barack Obama, the forty-fourth President of the United States of America, was sworn into office. While the occasion was certainly significant for many reasons, Barack Obama had already set into motion much of his new agenda for the country weeks before, with much of it focused on the field of technology.
President Obama and Democratic allies in Congress have called for copyright reform, to help the laws deal with issues like internet radio sensibly. They also called for legislation of net neutrality and legislation against some types of internet connection capping. And controversially, they have called for the transition from analog to digital television to be delayed until later this year (from February 17) to allow people enough time to get their converter boxes, which the government funds for have current run out.
In his inaugural address yesterday, President Obama hit on several key parts of his tech initiative. He stated, "For everywhere we look, there is work to be done; the state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.”
This passage of his speech alludes to his push for medical records to be digitized within five years. President Obama says this will lead to a much more efficient system and great cost savings, which will translate to cheaper medical care. The passage also includes an integral part of his tech policy, which is to increase the amount of cheap broadband connections to rural America, and make sure that telecoms do not abuse these connections by download caps or throttling. He is also calling for a revamp of America's dilapidated power grid, much of which is 50 years old or even older in some areas.
He also stated, "Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good."
This passage of his speech fuels speculation that the U.S. may move toward a more European style of antitrust law, where businesses are more aggressively policed for anticompetitive violations. Many have speculated that this may affect companies like Intel or Microsoft who dominate certain markets and exercise certain pricing or bundling techniques to try to expand their empires.
President Obama also called for increased U.S. reliance and research on wind and solar power and he left the door open for nuclear, saying the country also needed other "natural energy sources". He also called for an increase in technology in schools, to help the next generation stay competitive in the world economy.
Among the other salient passages of his speech was the following, "And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."
This could be interpreted as an allusion to President Obama's calls for increased accountability of domestic surveillance programs, and greater transparency in the government in general.
While the speech gave many allusions to his tech policy, it should get really interesting in the weeks to come. With a Democratic Congress, the new President has a virtual open road to legislate his tech agenda. However, the most important part of these policies -- their fine details -- will only arise in weeks to come as they are translated into legislative initiatives.