Business

Obama's top techie visits Silicon Valley

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Silicon Valley has not lost its luster as the Obama administration searches for high-tech answers to its policy initiatives..

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The country's top tech officer has been on the prowl this week, learning what Silicon Valley companies are working on.

The government needs technology to address pressing issues -- from health care to Internet security.

While Aneesh Chopra has tried to keep his profile low, he went public Wednesday at an Internet conference at Santa Clara University. His message -- that President Barack Obama is serious about creating a high tech agenda.

"This has been a top priority for the president," Chopra said. "We've been hard at work since the day he made the announcement and we continue to work on long-term policy recommendations and short-term actions that can demonstrate progress toward those long-term goals."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) is pleased that Chopra is in the Valley to listen, to learn and to shop.

The government spends $150 billion a year on technology research & development.

"He's had 60 meetings this week with technology leaders; there's lots to be done, I don't mean to say it is all done, but I think we're on the right track," Lofgren said.

At 11.8 percent, Silicon Valley's unemployment rate is now higher than the state average. So creating jobs and putting people back to work will help to bring the country out of recession.

One task that might help is creating a security wall to keep hackers from attacking government and private computers.

The director of Santa Clara University's High Tech Law Institute says tracking down hackers is difficult.

"That, I think, is our only long-term scalable solution, that we develop our fences much like we develop a defense infrastructure, we need a security infrastructure that's robust enough to protect against the threats," Eric Goldman said.

Creating a national cybertechnology policy is fraught with challenges. One of the most important could be privacy as the government tries to keep the bad guys out while protecting Internet freedom.

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