President Trump said that he was joined by “an incredible group of leaders” as he kicked off a meeting of the American Technology Council earlier this week. With Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to his left and Apple CEO Tim Cook to his right, Trump said his administration was embracing “big change and bold thinking” when it comes to tech.
A video released by The White House shows the opening remarks of the president in which he says government agencies today rely on “painfully outdated technology” despite the fact that the room was filled with “the greatest people in technology that the world has ever seen.”
Trump then asked those assembled to introduce themselves and say a few words. He started with “our wonderful, great genius from Microsoft who has done one hell of a job.”
Satya Nadella, Microsoft:
“Thank you Mr. President. Thanks for the opportunity today to spend the time to both learn and contribute to, I think, what is one of the most important dialogues, which is about modernizing our government with the latest technology, so that the people of America can benefit from it. So I think the first thing I took away is how important an agenda it is, to modernize technology. The second thing I think is for us to do our best work as an industry and in collaboration with the government to skill the people of the United States for the jobs of the future. Technology will play a role both in creation of the jobs and the skills. And then lastly I would say that we also need to increase American competitiveness and the two things that government can and has done is spending in big research — after all, all of the technology that we have today is because it started in fact in the government and the research institutions you funded — as well as the enlightened immigration policy. Of course I’m a beneficiary of that and I hope that we continue to be able to sort of really make sure that the American competitiveness is what helps us set policy.
Trump joked that “perhaps we can keep it a little shorter than that folks” after Nadella finished and drew a big laugh from the room. “Otherwise we might be here for a long time.”
He then introduced Bezos.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon:
“Alright, I will be short. When we met before in December I encouraged this administration that you could be the innovation administration. I’d like to see that kind of thinking continue. I applaud the formation of the innovation council and thank Jared [Kushner] for doing that. Just a couple of things that you could certainly focus on: one would be using commercial technologies wherever possible. I think you guys already headed that way, but to leverage those would save taxpayers a lot of money. The second one is to continue to work hard on … figure out ways to retrain and up-skill workers all over the U.S. We have a program at Amazon called Career Choice that’s been doing that. We’ve already got 10,000 people in this program; Ivanka [Trump] knows about this program. And the third thing to keep your eye on, I think it would be impossible to overstate this, is that the United States needs to in every way at every level be working on machine learning and artificial intelligence. And that can be used in every part of government to improve the services that government provides its citizens.”
Trump then heard from a range of folks seated around the table including a few university presidents and several other CEOs. Alex Karp, CEO of the big data analytics company Palantir, said that he has supported national security advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster “on the front line.” The company, which is funded in part by the CIA’s In-Q-Tel venture capital arm, has a reputation for secrecy and opened a Seattle office in 2015.
Twenty or so minutes after the introductions started, the discussion made its way back around the table to Cook, who was the last to speak before Trump again thanked everyone for their time and efforts.
Tim Cook, Apple:
“The U.S. should have the most modern government in the world and today it doesn’t. And it’s great to see the effort that Jared is putting in in working on things that will pay back in five and 10 and 20 years. The government should be focused on its citizens and the services of the government should be measured on how pleased the citizens are with receiving those services. That basic premise is not how it’s done today and so I would really encourage you to ask the cabinet how they’re measuring their parts of government and what they’re doing to serve the citizens that they’re meant to do. Secondly, totally unrelated but something I feel very passionate about: coding should be a requirement in every public school. We have a huge deficit in the skills that we need today versus the skills that are there, and we’re trying to do our part or hopefully more than our part in doing that, but I think leadership from government is also key.”