Amazon, Microsoft, Apple Asked to Modernize GovTech

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In the first-ever American Technology Council meeting at the White House Monday, President Donald Trump sat down with CEOs and leaders from the world’s biggest tech companies and sought partnerships in modernizing the federal government’s information technology landscape.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft CEO Satyella Nadella, and Apple CEO Tim Cook were just some of the innovation leaders on hand, joined by counterparts from Google, Palantir, Adobe, Akamai, Intel, Oracle, and Qualcomm as well as Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

“Our goal is to lead sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology that will deliver dramatically better services for citizens, stronger protection from cyber attacks,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the meeting. “That’s a big problem, there’s no question about it. We’re going to be working on it and we’re going to solve the problem – and up to a trillion dollars in savings for taxpayers over the next 10 years.”

The hours-long event that included roundtable discussions and breakout sessions was kicked off by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who shared details about government spending on technology and antiquated systems.

Kushner addressed the audience and press, explaining the federal government currently operates 6,100 data centers across the country, the “vast majority of which can be consolidated and migrated to the cloud.” He went on to explain that the Department of Defense is still using eight-inch floppy disks and the Department of Veterans Affairs online forms are mostly inaccessible to modern Internet browsers.

By a conservative estimate, Kushner said, the government is spending $80 billion annually on its IT infrastructure; two-thirds of which is being spent on maintaining legacy systems – an “unsustainable” figure, the adviser said.

The public sector has long been known as a laggard in technological innovation, slow to adopt any kind of digital transformation, often bound by legal constraints mandated decades ago.

One consideration brought by Bezos was for the federal government to begin investing and taking advantage of commercial technology and other tools, according to Palantir CEO Alex Karp inserted thoughts on big data and how it can help monitor fraudulent federal spending, the report said.

The meeting was the first of many, as the White House’s so-called “tech week” continues on Thursday with a look at artificial intelligence, IoT, and 5G technologies.