(AFP) – Nov 5, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Silicon Valley on Wednesday was looking forward to Barack Obama becoming a "tech president" that will champion Internet freedom and innovation.
Obama's history-making victory in the US presidential race not only gives the nation its first African-American commander-in-chief, it puts a technology-savvy politician at the country's helm.
"Obama likes technology and part of the reason he executed so well is that he used technology so effectively," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley. "That makes him a tech president."
A report published by the Center for Responsive Politics indicates that leading technology companies in Silicon Valley gave five times as much money to Democrat Obama as they did to his Republican rival John McCain.
By Election Day, approximately 91 percent of the Valley's technology firms and their workers reportedly backed Obama.
"The Valley invested heavily in Obama; millions of dollars," Enderle said. "On the tech side, this is the president they wanted."
During an "AtGoogle Talk" campaign stop at the Internet powerhouse's campus in Northern California, Obama vowed to defend net neutrality and deliver broadband Internet access to everyone in the country.
"We have to assure free and full exchange of information, and that starts with an open Internet," Obama said during an on-stage chat with Google chief executive Eric Schmidt.
"I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality. Because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out and we all lose."
Political debate regarding network neutrality focuses on whether companies operating lines handling Internet traffic should be allowed to charge for higher speeds or capacities instead of treating all users equally.
Service providers contend that charging for priority on the Internet will promote investment in networks and let them better manage congestion caused by tremendous amounts of digital data traveling online.
Internet firms, including Google, argue that service providers are making a money grab that would stifle online innovation and economic growth.
Obama agreed that having "the Internet divided up to the highest bidders" would shut out startups and discourage innovation.
While speaking with "Googlers," Obama said his priorities in the White House would include developing clean energy and using technology such as electronic medical records to help achieve universal health care.
Obama also promised to put more government information online so people could track, and comment on federal contracts and legislation.
He said he plans to appoint the nation's first "chief technical officer to make certain we incorporate technology into every decision we make."
Those being considered for the post reportedly include Center for Internet and Society founder Lawrence Lessig; Hewlett Packard chief technical officer Shane Robison, and Schmidt.
"It might even be Al Gore," Enderle said of possible Obama picks for US CTO. "But it would be great if he picked someone based on skill set and not political connections. The one I think best is Shane Robison."
Schmidt publically endorsed Obama in the final weeks of the campaign but has sidestepped press inquiries regarding becoming US CTO, saying he is busy enough running Google.
"Obama is good news for tech firms," Enderle said. "The big risk is he is not a huge fan of outsourcing and, given the political environment, bringing in workers from other countries probably won't fly."
In his talk at Google, Obama called for an overhaul of immigration rules that would include making it easier for Internet firms to import engineers or other skilled workers that aren't available in the US labor pool.
Obama drew applause when he said he is devoted to improving the US educational system so that future top engineers and scientists are cultivated "right here in America."
Obama's support for Internet technology and green energy in the United States bodes well for Silicon Valley, but dismal financial realities may result in disappointments for his supporters, said Gartner analyst Van Baker.
"The rubber is going to hit the road now and there isn't a whole lot of money for him to do anything," Baker said of Obama heading for the White House.
"He has lots of great plans, but given the current economic situation it is hard to say how much he will be able to do."
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