Technology, the Road to Recovery, and Personal Prosperity

As we enter the sleepy days of summer few things of substance stick in the brain. We are more likely to dwell on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock than the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. We should not. Rather than allowing the lunar landing to be a part of the coverage carousel that cycles stories in and then out every 24 hours, we should hold onto the lessons from 1969. Chief among those is that a well defined visionary agenda paired with the latest technological know-how is a true partnership for success. President Kennedy's proclamation in 1961 that the U.S. would send a person to the moon before the end of the decade was an early incarnation of the audacity of hope. There were many reasons to doubt the President's dream, and a multitude of demands to drop the efforts along the way. Fortunately optimism and a sense of strategic purpose prevailed. Being the first to achieve a lunar landing uplifted a divided and demoralized nation, and spawned a host of new industries and a renewed interest in the sciences that has served this nation well over the last 40 years. 

The moon landing for our generation is here on earth. Rather than looking skyward we should focus on rebuilding our national prosperity by investing locally to succeed globally. It is time to marshal industry and scientific innovation to advance our key terrestrial priorities. The deep cultural divisions of the 1960s are largely behind us, but challenges remain. Successfully stimulating job creation, addressing our energy security, and improving our health care and education systems will require the same hopeful audacity, technological advances, and focused vision that led to a successful space mission. We can get there if we combine Information and Communications Technology (ICT) with a clear national commitment to rebuild national prosperity. The quickest and most sustainable path to economic growth has been through ICT innovation. ICT may sound like the province of geeks, but it will be the principal catalyst that will spawn smart industries, create new high wage jobs, increase savings and ultimately renew spending and economic growth. Thus, we simply must account for it in our public policy, our corporate strategy, and in our public and private investments. Hitching our future success to ICT is particularly important given that, as Thomas Friedman asserts aptly, "We are living in an increasingly flat, interconnected, borderless world." International boundaries exist, of course, but ideas, money, and people flow increasingly flow seamlessly across the world. We must compete in this new global environment. Policies must provide the infrastructure to support U.S. based companies moving forward instead of hindering their success. Embracing global integration as a positive force may seem like a paradox, but it's not. Globalism, by investing and innovating at home with an eye toward global markets, will directly result in more dollars for jobs today, and advances in infrastructure and research and development that will produce more jobs tomorrow. To build and sustain national prosperity we must invest locally yet succeed globally. We must begin by making real investments in re-envisioning our education system by moving away from the current mass production, one-size fits all model to more personalized programs that takes advantage of the latest technology and teaching principles. Our higher education system remains the most innovative in the world, and we need immigration policies that place an emphasis on keeping the best and brightest graduates of our colleges and universities in America. To create an environment of continued innovation and investment for these students, we must create a tax code that promotes capital investment, resulting in high wage, knowledge intensive jobs. The existing system does the opposite -- it places U.S. based companies at a competitive disadvantage internationally by making it harder to create those new jobs here. Our health care system, like our tax code, educational and immigration system, is holding us back from achieving prosperity. We spend almost 17 percent of our GDP -- more than one of every six dollars we earn, on health care -- more than any other country in the world. That level of expenditure suppresses wages and places a chokehold on the country's economy. There are no simple solutions to health care. However, here too, ICT through connecting doctors and patients into a national electronic network has the potential to allow both patients and doctors to more clearly see the costs and effectiveness of their medical decisions and drive down costs. We need a strategy for accelerating the nation's prosperity. Such a goal may not sound as lofty as landing on the moon, but it is no less important.