President-elect Barack Obama is often portrayed as one of the first elected officials to truly embrace technology, thanks to hisplan to appoint the nation's first-ever chief technology officer and the nine-page federal technology plan he offered during his campaign. Not to mention his campaign's clever use of technologies such as text messaging and his personal attachment to the BlackBerry and other devices.
So it's not surprising that tech types are hoping the upcoming federal economic stimulus package, which is expected to include some $800 billion in spending over the next two years, will raise technology's profile and grow the number of U.S. tech jobs. Katherine McGuire, VP of government relations at the Business Software Alliance, tells Computerworld the package could add some 300,000 IT jobs to the economy.
Many areas included in Obama's plan are not directly related to tech but are expected to employ tech workers. Some examples: construction and engineering companies that will need folks with computer-aided design and telecommunications skills, and health care and alternative energy companies that will seek software development and bioinformatics skills.
Robert McGovern, CEO of careers Web site JobFox, says employers have open tech positions now but are reluctant to fill them with no clear prospect of an economic recovery.
And tech heavyweights have come-a-calling -- at Obama's invitation -- to offer advice on IT investments. IBM CEO Sam Palmisano recently told Obama's transition team that $30 billion of government cash devoted to expanding broadband access, computerizing health care records and improving the electrical grid could create more than 900,000 U.S. jobs, reports The Wall Street Journal. Other CEOs also participated in the conference call with the transition team.
Since IT is usually pitched as a way to boost productivity and thus streamline jobs, there wasn't much readily available data on how IT could help create jobs, notes the article. IBM worked with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation think tank to come up with some figures for Obama.
According to IBM, investing $10 billion in broadband networks to provide high-speed Internet access to areas without it would create 498,000 new jobs in a year, allocating $10 billion to computerizing health care records and other health-related IT would create 212,000 jobs, and spending $10 billion on gear that allows electric utilities to monitor their infrastructure more closely would create 239,000 jobs.
Many of the new jobs would come from small businesses, says IBM, and much of the growth would be attributed to "network effects" generated from new services created by the investments.
A specific suggestion from IBM: Issue an executive order requiring the government convert all its data center to be optimized for energy efficiency within three years. Perhaps not coincidentally, IBM hasbeen working hard to earn business geared toward "greening" data centers.