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Abstract

While the presidential race primarily focused on the economy, the Iraq war, and the rising cost of health care, President Barack Obama must now show that he is ready to set the technology policy agenda of the United States for the next four years because our national technology policy will have a large effect across all areas of national policy. Spurring technological innovation is becoming an increasingly important tool for policymakers. Government has traditionally relied on three mechanisms to shape public policy: tax policy, government programs, and regulation. However, innovation has become an important component because success in many policy areas, including health care, national defense, homeland security, transportation, energy, environment, law enforcement, and, of course, the economy, may largely be determined by our ability to develop and deploy information technology (IT). For example, solving our nation's surface transportation challenges will be difficult without the widespread use of IT, whether to implement congestion pricing and tolling with intelligent transportation systems or to provide real-time information on traffic conditions. Likewise, fixing health care requires a massive infusion of IT, including the deployment of electronic health records and the creation of a sustainable national health information network. This essay lays out a framework for the new administration's technology policy to help spur growth and progress throughout the economy and government. Each of these policy changes satisfies at least one of two primary goals: 1) promoting competitiveness and innovation; and 2) fostering a more robust digital economy. Given the importance of IT to solving pressing societal problems, it is crucial that the new administration see IT not as a sideline issue, but as a key component of its domestic and foreign policy. This means putting issues of digital transformation at the front and center of a wide array of public policy issues. For example, any economic stimulus package should invest not only in physical infrastructure, but also in our digital infrastructure. It also means that IT transformation needs to be a key component of every government agency, not just the commerce or telecommunications agencies.

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