Trump And Technology: How Will New President Impact IT?

Contributor: Jason Koestenblatt
Posted: 11/10/2016
Donald Trump

Two years of campaigning has come to an end, the American people hit the polls, and the next President Of The United States has been elected.

But what does it all mean for the technology sector, if anything? President-elect Donald Trump did not focus on tech specifically during his campaign, but many pieces of his platform – trade, immigration – may have major impacts on the industry.

In a report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIL), released after the Nov. 8 election, Trump’s stance on a variety of issues are outlined and how they’ll pertain to the tech sector.

Trump has taken no formal position on Technology Transfer and Commercialization; Supporting Start-ups and Small Businesses; and Patent System Reform, the foundation reported.

When it comes to immigration, however, Trump has made it clear he eyes major reform, and has targeted the H-1B visa specifically, which is used by employers to enable foreign workers to remain in the U.S. for extended periods of time.

Earlier in 2016, Trump enlisted former Disney IT workers who went public with their anger over having to train foreign replacements, according to computerworld.com. Trump has already partnered with Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to draft an H-1B platform that makes it more expensive to use and also protects U.S. workers from displacement, the report said.

The visa program allows for a lottery to be held, as a total of 85,000 H-1B visas are granted annually, many of which wind up in the tech sector. The H-1B program is used by businesses to “employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming,” according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

According to ITIF, there are some 560,000 empty tech jobs, and “American workers are unavailable” for many computing and engineering vacancies, analyst Adams Nager said in a Wall Street Journal report earlier this year. But it's been widely held that foreign workers on H-1B visas are often paid less than their American counterparts, as was documented by University of California Professor Norman Matloff in a stinging 2013 report published through the Economic Institute Policy.

In contrast, one of the biggest names in technology, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has been very public about his lobbying for more H-1B visas, as demand exceeds supply nearly three-fold. In an op-ed last year, Zuckerberg wrote, “Why do we kick out the more than 40% of math and science graduate students who are not US citizens after educating them?”

Where tech companies may find growing bottom lines, however, is in their foreign business transactions, as Trump looks to lower corporate taxes across the board. The President-elect said he would lower the tax rate on foreign earnings to 15%, but has also been very clear about applying tariffs and renegotiating trade deals in general with other countries, specifically China.

Where Trump may lean on the tech sector is in cybersecurity and defense, however. His campaign website had a dedicated page to analyzing cybersecurity and taking a stronger stance, along with repeatedly stating he wants to work with the tech industry to prevent ISIS from online recruiting.

While the billionaire has made his position well-known on many issues throughout the campaign, his focus on technology has been hazy at best. Time will be the biggest factor in how his Presidency impacts IT.

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Jason Koestenblatt
Contributor: Jason Koestenblatt

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