Tech issues such as the high-profile Apple encryption battle may be in the media spotlight, but they’ve taken a backseat to other concerns during this tumultuous election season. The Hillary Clinton camp may change that, thanks to a new tech policy plan released Tuesday.
Clinton pledges to promote entrepreneurship, diversify the tech workforce, and double down on STEM and computer science education in public schools. She is the first candidate to outline any sort of tech agenda this election season, which may help her gain traction with the influential tech community.
Several initiatives in the proposed agenda are designed to promote entrepreneurship. Debt forgiveness has been a key component of the Clinton campaign and the proposal takes it a step further. It promises to defer student loan debts while young entrepreneurs launch new ventures. Student loan payments would be deferred without interest for up to three years while qualifying Americans launch startups. Clinton says her administration will offer student loan debt forgiveness of up to $17,500 after five years for entrepreneurs serving underprivileged communities or launching businesses that “provide measurable social impact and benefit.”
A primary focus of the agenda is closing the talent gap between students educated in computer science and the jobs available in related fields. Clinton pledges to continue President Obama’s “Computer Science Education for All” initiative and promises to launch a new generation of grants, doubling the federal government’s investment in computer science in public schools. In the brief, Clinton also says her administration will train an additional 50,000 computer science educators over the next decade. Grants would also go toward other STEM disciplines.
Coding bootcamps, which have been rising rapidly in popularity, also got a nod in the agenda. Clinton says she’ll extend federal financial aid to programs like “nanodegrees, accelerated learning programs for computer coding, career and technical training, certificates for ‘specializations,’ and online learning.” The Clinton campaign pledges to invest $10 billion in these kinds of programs and establish incentives for universities to accept them as credit toward graduation.
The statement pledges billions in grants toward tech-driven job training and education for minorities. Clinton also plans to fast-track green cards for graduate STEM students from other countries studying in the U.S.
The agenda also focused on internet access, as an imperative for progress and innovation. Clinton plans to invest in existing programs, like the Rural Utilities Service program, to reduce the number of U.S. households without internet access. She proposes a new grant program to compel cities to invest in digital infrastructure and promote WiFi in public spaces. These investments, the Clinton campaign says, will lay the groundwork for a new generation of Internet of Things technology.
Clinton’s agenda covers privacy and “internet governance” — two issues repeatedly making news this year — without introducing many new policy plans. She says she will limit the reach of government in regulating and controlling the global internet. The brief touches on the importance of safeguarding against international cyber-security espionage, though it is vague on specifics. But Clinton does detail plans to establish new tech and internet-related regulations domestically.
Clinton proposes a number of internal reforms, such as digitizing and modernizing government agencies, updating copyright policy, and curbing patent litigation. To help her, Clinton will appoint a Chief Innovation Advisor, with the intention of reforming existing regulations that stifle innovation.
In the past, Clinton’s judgment has been questioned by people in the tech industry because of her use of a private email server. However, Tuesday’s announcement could widen the chasm between Clinton and Donald Trump on tech issues. The presumptive Republican nominee’s campaign hasn’t addressed tech issues other than a few remarks expressing hostility toward the tech industry for evading taxes and obstructing law enforcement.
Tuesday’s announcement appears to be in line with the Clinton campaign’s efforts to position her as the economically sober candidate. The agenda release coincided with a speaking event where Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren outlined the presumptive Democratic nominee’s economic goals.