About the Author: Ambassador Philip Verveer serves as U.S. Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy.
While in San Francisco for a conference last week, I had the opportunity to tour Silicon Valley and meet representatives from a number of Northern California-based technology firms. Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Lorraine Hariton, a successful Silicon Valley tech executive prior to joining the State Department three months ago, Steven Koltai, and Joseph Burton also participated. The Silicon Valley meetings were scheduled with the extremely helpful assistance of the European-American Business Council.
We sought the meetings to better understand the international technology policy, competitiveness, and innovation concerns impacting U.S.-based technology companies of all sizes, and to learn of future technology issues. A series of technology-specific roundtable meetings included sessions focused on semiconductors, smart grid, cyber-security, and wireless, wire-line, and Internet Protocol (IP) telephony. We also met with a large number of Silicon Valley-based venture capitalists.
Among the many important technology policy and competitiveness issues learned on this visit, I’d like to share the following themes of note for consideration by DipNote readers:
• As technology touches more and more lives throughout the world, a focus on sustainability is gaining importance in the technology industry. I would like to engage my international counterparts on increasing worldwide access to communications and information products and services in a more environmentally sustainable manner. This is something that has implications for economic development as well as for climate and other environmental concerns.
• Criminal and other misuses of our broadband infrastructure are increasing in volume and sophistication at an appalling rate, making the need to promote online security best practices to an increasingly wired world ever more important. I will be looking for opportunities to highlight the need for greater worldwide cyber awareness and education.
• International harmonization of radio spectrum, as well as reliance on internationally standardized encryption, would promote manufacturing and related efficiencies with no apparent significant downside.
• Tied-aid by other governments is a growing competitiveness problem to the U.S. technology industry. This occurs when a government promises to provide economic or development aid in exchange for awarding particular projects or procurements to donor nation companies. It is important that industry report such practices in a timely manner.
• There is considerable concern that technical standards are being used in some countries as trade barriers. As with tied-aid, it is helpful to the Department to learn of instances in which standardization activities are suspected of being disguised trade barriers.
The insights gained during this listening tour will be helpful to U.S. efforts to level the international competitive playing field and to expand access to communications for worldwide economic benefit. I look forward to continued engagement with representatives of industry and civil society regarding key policy priorities and issues.
Ambassador Philip Verveer leads the International Communication and Information Policy (CIP) group, one of seven issue-oriented organizations within the Bureau of Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. CIP advocates international policies for expanded access to information and communication technologies (ICT), improved efficiency in the worldwide ICT and telecommunications market through increased reliance on free-market forces, and fair opportunities for U.S. companies to participate in this important sector around the globe.