Obama adviser urges IT investment to beat downturn
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Governments around the world can beat the global recession by investing heavily in the information technology (IT) industry, which can lead to higher productivity and create more jobs in virtually every sector of the economy, a U.S. expert said Tuesday.
Investment in computers, broadband Internet and digital technologies will have a bigger, longer-term impact than any other kind of economic stimulus spending, said Robert D. Atkinson, who was technology adviser to President Barack Obama's transition team.
Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a Washington, D.C.-based think-tank, said the U.S. economy can be revived by infrastructure projects and pumping money into the system – including by investing in technology.
"You don't have to [invest in technology], but it is a much smarter way of doing it," he told The Associated Press in an interview on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian forum on stimulating economies through information infrastructure.
Recommendations from the ITIF helped lead to the Obama administration allocating $39.2 billion from the $780 billion stimulus package for improving IT network infrastructure.
Of that amount, some $7.2 billion will be spent on broadband Internet, $19 billion on health and $13 billion on a smart power grid for more efficient power transmission and pricing.
All this, Atkinson said, will help create more than 1 million jobs in the U.S., 60 percent of them in small businesses.
Wider broadband penetration will lead to development of newer computers and accessories, more e-commerce and e-government, while smart electricity grids will spur the production of smart appliances, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, energy storage and residential solar power, Atkinson said.
He said the IT industry is used by virtually every sector, including transportation, retail, manufacturing and services. By using technology, these industries can increase productivity, thereby bringing down cost of products and boosting sales. This in turn will lead to higher employment, he said.
Examples abound in the world of IT revolutionizing economies, including South Korea, Japan, India, Singapore and Sweden.
Still, there is "complete lack of understanding," even in the United States, about the importance of IT industry, but it was included in the stimulus partly because Obama understood the significance, Atkinson said.
"There were people, high-level people, in the Obama administration who did not think investing in broadband was very important in the stimulus," he said.
Earlier, Navin Shenoy, the Asia-Pacific general manager of Intel Corp., told the conference the global economic crisis is a "massive opportunity" to increase the world's productivity by investing wisely on technology industry.
"We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the world," he said.