There is no shortage of people coming to Washington these days with ideas for how to address some of the serious challenges we face. Today in D.C. our CEO Eric Schmidt offered some of his own ideas for how policy makers might approach some of those challenges. He said that despite these concerns, he is an optimist, citing the combination of new technology and "the genius of the American people."
In a talk sponsored by the New America Foundation, Eric noted that for years there's been a debate in Washington about the proper role of government in our economy -- but now we've reached a consensus that the free market must be the engine of economic growth but government has a critical role to play in supporting growth and creativity.
To address our economic problems and create jobs, Eric continued, we need to put innovation first. He identified these priorities:
- Broadband and infrastructure. We need to invest in a 21st century infrastructure, going beyond the usual litany of roads and bridges to new communications and information networks. Government should free up more spectrum for broadband, and we need a universal broadband strategy that includes targeted incentives to increase competition.
- Research and development. Noting that his own graduate student research was partially funded by federal agencies, Eric called for increased federal funding for R&D in science and engineering and technical education; making the R&D tax credit permanent; and modernizing our legal framework by passing patent reform legislation.
- Energy. Discussing Google's Clean Energy 2030 proposal, Eric recommended attempting to reduce demand through energy efficiency; increasing support for clean energy (wind, solar and enhanced geothermal); deploying smart electric grids; and putting millions of plug-in electric vehicles on the road.
- Restoring public trust in government. The 2008 elections demonstrated how technology can increase political participation. Eric called for applying that power to making government more accountable, by making government information more accessible online, and using the Internet to increase citizen participation.
Update (11/20): Here's video of Eric's talk.