In the words of President George W. Bush, "Is our children learning?"
If by "child" he was referring to the government's tech efforts, the answer would be yes. However, what it has learned, what changes and policies have been implemented during President Bush's administration are a complex and lengthy topic to consider as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office.
Some of the changes were superficial. The Whitehouse.gov got a makeover and relaunch this week. Some of the recent tech legislative provisions passed through were considered somewhat trivial.
However, other changes were big. President Bush's use of warrantless wiretaps and push for immunity for cooperating telecoms struck many as government playing big brother. Law enforcement without regulation or responsibility, they argue could quickly go astray. Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were among Bush's close allies to take the opposite stance, arguing the executive had the power to enforce laws without the necessity of regulation at times. Mr. Gonzales stated, "The president has the inherent authority under the Constitution, as commander-in-chief, to engage in this kind of activity."
President Bush also tried to push through legislation which would provide the beginnings of a renewed focus on cybersecurity. While recent war games have shown the country woefully prepared for an organized cyber assault, progress was made in this arena.
Bush showed support for copyright protection efforts. Under his administration, the RIAA was encouraged to carry out its aggressive campaign, which generated much public attention, but ultimately failed to curb piracy.
On other subjects, though President Bush voiced its opinion, but deferred to Congress. President Bush opposed auctioning the wireless spectrum, but he allowed the Federal Communications Commission Chief, Kevin Martin, whom he appointed, to proceed with an auction anyway. Bush also opposed legislating net neutrality, but again Mr. Martin sided against his boss and pushed through changes.
President Bush will also be remembered for his bailout of the automotive industry, an integral part of the U.S. tech industry. Some point out that with this bailout and others, combined with the government takeover of Fannie and Freddie May, Bush brought elements of mild socialism to the U.S.
President Bush also sided with bipartisan efforts in Congress to sign into law new fuel economy standards and provide tax incentives to alternative energy firms. And he set the nation's sights on the Moon, encouraging NASA to undertake the ambitious Ares program to return to the moon. Under Bush's presidency the internet was also kept tax free on a federal level.
Ultimately the only broad conclusion one can draw from President Bush's tech legacy is that it is complex and likely a sign of things to come. With President-elect Barack Obama set to take office and push an ambitious new tech-oriented agenda, the torch has been passed, and it appears that the government's tech efforts will only grow. Whether this will entail a continuation of President Bush's championed expanded role of government, or a more regulation laissez-faire, but financially supportive approach to the tech industry, though remains to be seen.