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Hillary Clinton's Tech Agenda Addresses Key Industry Weaknesses of Diversity, Pipeline

To encourage a diverse pool to enter the tech workforce, Clinton's plan promotes expanding STEM education, underscoring the current dearth of computer science education in the U.S. and emphasizing that the pipeline for computer-related jobs is severely lacking.
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Hillary Clinton introduced an aggressive tech innovation agenda early this week intended to continue the Obama administration's legacy of progress in government technology, open data, computer science education, research and development, tech jobs, broadband infrastructure, internet governance, privacy protection, and cybersecurity. Widely cited as a "Silicon Valley wish list," the lengthy plan identifies multiple areas of potential improvement in both government and industry.

Ambitious yet pragmatic, the "Initiative on Technology and Innovation" comprises five key sections relating to the economy, infrastructure, global leadership, information sharing, and government processes. Stepping forward in support of net neutrality, broadband for all, patent reform, data transparency and robust security, the agenda targets numerous opportunities to continue modernizing government in an attempt to catch up with other industries. Starting with pervasive broadband initiatives, Clinton would reduce barriers to expanding broadband infrastructure including 5G capabilities.

To encourage a diverse pool of women and men to enter the tech workforce, Clinton's plan promotes expanding STEM education, underscoring the current dearth of computer science education in the U.S. and emphasizing that less than 20% of high school students have taken courses in this area, leaving the pipeline for computer-related jobs severely lacking. By 2020, there will be 1.4 million new tech job openings in the U.S. but we're on track to have less than 1/3rd of the number of qualified graduates to fill those jobs.

Clinton aims to provide training programs for 50,000 more computer science teachers in the next ten years and to expand grant programs for students in underserved areas. A $20 billion investment will be made for programs in disadvantaged communities to support models like linked learning, P-Tech, apprenticeships and career academies. For foreign born technology workers who study in the U.S., an expedited green card process would be available to those obtaining graduate degrees at accredited universities.

For graduates who choose to become entrepreneurs, Clinton's plan will allow for federal student loans to be deferred for up to three years for startup founders and early employees while their start-ups get off the ground. Secretary Clinton supports incubators, accelerators, mentoring and training for 50,000 entrepreneurs in underserved areas, acknowledging that 93% of existing venture funding has gone to men, located in tech hubs like the San Francisco Bay Area. The plan also emphasizes the need for more industry representatives to work with government, through programs like the U.S. Digital Service (USDS).

Clinton's agenda also emphasizes protection of workers who participate in the gig economy as freelancers and remote workers. As president, Clinton will assemble a working group of experts, business and labor leaders to better define the needs of these workers and implement programs to provide workers greater flexibility, benefits and security in this type of work. For workers further along in their careers, her plan will provide access to education and training programs to build skills mid- and late-career, in partnership with the Department of Labor. In order to "spur entrepreneurship and innovation clusters like Silicon Valley across the country," implementing the agenda will require extensive public-private partnerships and collaboration.