Shaping our Digital Future Part I: Fund Digital Infrastructure

December 7, 2020

Children Looking at a Robot

Nine ideas for things we need to do now to ensure that our digital future is as bright and booming as possible. 

It’s not too late to fix the mistakes of the past and create a firm foundation for the years ahead, but our prosperity and well-being at every level of American society will depend on confronting these challenges and taking meaningful action.

Our nation’s digital infrastructure is outdated, undersized, and insecure. Without investing in it and treating it like an essential foundation, rather than a “gee-whiz” extra line item, any new programs or vital reforms that our government seeks to enact won’t be able to get off the ground and up to scale.

Here’s what we need to do:

  1. Create a Federal Department of Technology to invest in the interconnectivity of federal, state, and local government infrastructure. Appoint a change-making CTO to lead the agency and give them the resources and budget to implement real solutions.
  2. Subsidize movement to the cloud at the federal level. Traditional servers are a security threat and a maintenance nightmare. Stop relying on states and localities to stretch their budgets to fund this essential shift.
  3. Invest in low-cost satellite broadband technology, like Starlink, or low-power mesh network-based municipal broadband, and subsidize access. The digital divide continues to handicap a significant portion of our population. This is the first, essential step to closing the gap.
  4. Subsidize smart phone systems for all Americans regardless of income. These hand-held devices have the power to provide access to a broad spectrum of services and information that benefit all areas of life. They’re a low-cost step toward universal accessibility.
  5. Provide a smart phone for every child (like the Lifeline Program). Let’s make sure the next generations grow up connected and don’t face unnecessary hurdles as they pursue their education, manage their health, and connect with career opportunities.
  6. Require the government to invest 10 percent of any capital funds, including bonds, to create digital infrastructure. Treat these vital networks like the essential foundation that they are and fund them accordingly.
  7. Invest in and seed the use of artificial intelligence (AI) through all levels of government to improve citizen services. These technologies can unclog essential access points and will pay for themselves through cost savings and scalability.
  8. Make the use of federal funding for any digital infrastructure project contingent on using a consistent set of state and/or local government standards. Ensure that these systems can connect smoothly to improve access, streamline processes, and increase reusability.
  9. Subsidize the use of quantum computing as a mainframe so that state and local governments can reap the benefits of more powerful analytics to deliver services. The initial investment will pay off through simplified systems, targeted investments, and improved results.