How the Tech Industry Can Lead in the Trump Era

Traditionally democratically inclined tech industry to face the reality of a Republican government in power – need to develop a working relationship and make it a win- win situation for all

How the Tech Industry Can Lead in the Trump Era

During the campaigning days, there were stormy debates raging in the tech industry over the outcome of the elections, and how it would impact the ever growing industry. While most big players like Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Apple CEO Tim Cook and others were democratically inclined, evident from their huge funding for the Clinton campaign, there were those like PayPal founder Peter Teale, who not only backed Trump at the Republican National Convention but also donated 1.25 million dollars to the Trump campaign.

Now, that a Republican government is ordained to govern for the next 4 years at least, how the tech community will respond to the unexpected change, how they will form a working relationship with the Trump administration, what the industry can do to build a lasting and sustainable relationship and continue to grow at the same frenetic pace, are some of the question that need to be addressed. Time will tell how it pans out!

There are numerous arguments and citations about the role of the social media in influencing the unexpected outcome. Buzzfeed’s piece on how a group of teenagers from Macedonia, formed hundreds of websites designed to go viral and how they succeeded in outshining established and respected journalists, credible researchers and political experts, is a matter of great concern.

So, was it the social media platforms that allowed the fakers, knowingly or unknowingly, to reach out to larger audiences and influence their decisions? Well, many will argue in favor of this notion and, to a certain extent, even prove that this is exactly what transpired.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, however, is in denial of this and if he is to be believed, only a miniscule percentage of such negative propaganda had a bearing on the election results. He maintains that Facebook remains to be a platform where friends, family, and colleagues can interact and share important moments in their individual lives.

However, both Facebook and Google have incorporated checks and balances to avoid misuse of their advertising platforms and newsfeed for spreading propaganda and fake news in the future. None-the-less, one feels, though it can be reduced and checked to a large extent, it cannot be totally done away with.

All said and done, the ground reality is that, come January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump will occupy the Oval Office and the tech community will have to form new strategies to deal with new tech related legislations.

Under President Barak Obama, there was a mutual friendship between the White House and Silicon Valley. Now that Trump will be in charge there is still a lot of ambiguity in the tech community as to what his presidency will mean to their industry. “He [Trump] barely made any appeal to Silicon Valley for their support,” said Justin Gest, an assistant professor of public policy at George Mason University. “So his allegiance to growing their businesses is unclear.”

Some of Trump’s campaign policies that may go against the tech industry:

Offshore manufacturing and Trade
“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries,” he promised at Liberty University in January to be repeated at other events as well. Ironically, Trump’s own companies manufacture numerous items overseas – sounds like double standards? He plans to penalize companies indulging in offshore manufacture by levying tariffs on re-imports of these products.

Chinese and Mexican Imports
Trump’s threat of a blanket 45% tax on Chinese products, and 35% on Mexican imports if the two countries do not implement reforms affecting US trade policies will most likely have an impact on the tech industry.

“I think the tech industry is going to have to [react to this] collectively,” says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. “The question is, are they capable of acting collectively, or are they individual firms that just do what’s best for them?”

Immigration Policies
Trump’s aggressive campaign on putting a check on immigration, restricting the H1B visa program, will have some impact on the tech industry, if not a disastrous one. Some of the industry’s most top jobs have immigrants at the helm, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, to name a few. However, according to Arun Sundararajan, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, the policy may not have that huge an impact as demand for these workers far exceeds the supply.

There are a lot of arguments, debates, discussions doing the rounds and most, if not all, are based on Trump’s campaign bravado. What actually transpires after he takes over from President Barak Obama is still not a certainty.

How the tech industry copes with the changing scenario is left to them. Will they have individual strategies in response to Trump’s tech policies or will they come up with a combined strategy to counter any adversity? Time will tell. In my personal opinion sanity will prevail and the tech industry will continue to grow at the pace it has gotten used to.

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