Jason Oxman: What anti-tech crusaders on social media get wrong -- American innovation is critical

Unfortunately, certain elected leaders have launched misguided attacks on tech companies, even arguing that the industry is no longer innovating at the speed it once was.

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In a twist of irony, these same anti-tech crusaders share and amplify their opinions through social media postings that communicate with millions with the touch of a button. Decrying technology in one breath and posturing for likes and retweets in another.

Meanwhile, outside the Beltway cognoscenti, Americans continue to love and benefit from technology. You are probably reading this on a screen; a phone, tablet or computer. And you probably will use another form of technology not tied to your smartphone throughout your day.

Did you look up directions or recommendations on your computer? Did your car tell you it’s time for a service appointment? Did you use a voice assistant to hear your favorite song or turn off your lights?

All these innovations and more have become a part of our daily lives and the technology industry is already thinking about the next great thing.

And beyond such daily conveniences, in communities along the Mississippi to regional economic powerhouses large and small, online platforms and the entire technology industry are changing lives and improving how we work and live. Small businesses are using technology to sell and ship more products outside of their own communities, expanding the business and increasing their bottom line.

Doctors use cutting-edge technologies to map a disease’s pathology to determine a clearer prognosis, a better treatment and save lives. New speech and language tools improve deaf and visually-impaired individuals’ ability to communicate.

Suggesting that technology is not innovating as quickly as it once was is not fair to the millions of men and women that are innovating and disrupting industries every day.

Suggesting that technology is not innovating as quickly as it once was is not fair to the millions of men and women that are innovating and disrupting industries every day. 

In 2018 alone, more than 260,000 Americans across 43 states started a new career in tech, joining the more than 11.6 million others already working in the booming industry. In fact, according to recent reports, states like Missouri will see a 9.5 percent increase in the tech workforce over the next five years.

Nationally, the average annual salary for jobs in the tech industry was $93,244 in 2018, according to tech career site Dice. In small towns and major cities, investors are backing tech start-ups to transform the way we live. While not every company will achieve a global scale, some do not need to in order to make a difference.

Innovations take time to develop and they can come from anywhere. Backyard garages turn into laboratories for dreams. What makes technology and the innovation that drives it so fascinating is the ability for anyone to get involved.

The United States’ global competitive edge is not only because of what is happening in Silicon Valley but also because innovation is happening in the Silicon Prairie of Nebraska and the rust belt’s new tech corridors in Ohio and Michigan. Technology allows ideas to become products, only limited by hours in the day. (Not who you are, your level of education or where you’re from.)

The tech industry applauds leaders who spark important conversations about the good that technology can bring. How companies protect people’s personal information and how automation will affect jobs and economic opportunities are vital questions that policymakers and industry must address together.

But let there be no doubt, the tech sector is ready to continue our tradition of helping realize the “dreams that fuel the American future.”

The possibilities for innovation are only getting stronger as more investments are made to support increased broadband connectivity and services. Government leaders should focus on investments in public/private partnerships – like those that created the internet, and put us on the moon – as the best path forward to advancing innovation.

If today’s smartphone or tablet can pack more power than NASA’s entire Apollo space fleet, just imagine what devices will be capable of tomorrow. My colleagues in the tech industry are already thinking about what’s next and we’re excited to show the world what we’ve been working on.

Jason Oxman is president and chief executive officer of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), the global trade association for the tech sector. Jason brings more than 20 years of experience as a globally recognized leader in technology advocacy. He received his B.A. cum laude from Amherst College, and his M.S. and J.D. from Boston University.