Loose wires: U.S. at risk of losing global lead in information technology.

Author:Gropman, Alan L.
Position:ICAF Industry Study

The United States leads the world in information and communications technologies, but the nation must overcome several near-term challenges if" it hopes to retain its global leadership, according to a recent study by the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Some of the key challenges include reforming H1-B visa allocations to maintain a strong U.S.-based IT workforce, monitoring the ongoing convergence of telephony, data, and video services, resolving the debate over Internet neutrality, and executing a strategy to protect critical information.

There is a perceived need within the information technology and communications industries to develop a homegrown labor force, not only for the viability of the economy and the industry, but also for national security requirements, the study said.

While the United States is struggling to produce domestic talent, many other countries are producing an oversupply. The explosive growth of higher education in many developing countries, particularly in Asia, has caused a shift in the global talent pool. China and India are producing more engineers than all industrial countries combined. Other industrialized nations are aggressively recruiting from these countries. Meanwhile, the United States has erected harriers for skilled migrants by restricting non-immigrant H1-B professional worker visas after 9/11, the study said.

Additionally, enrollment of foreign students in U.S. universities declined for the first time since the 1950s after Congress restricted student visas. This aversion towards foreign workers is depriving U.S. universities and businesses of the talent necessary to drive American innovation, ICAF students noted. If these skilled individuals cannot enter the U.S. market, more firms will be driven to offshore outsourcing.

The study recommended that the United States strengthen K-12 math and science education, increase training opportunities and raise the number of HI-B and education visas to pre-9/11 levels.

Another issue of concern is "net neutrality," which is linked to the idea that broadband service providers charge consumers only once for Internet access, do not favor one content provider over another, and do not charge content providers for sending information over broadband lines to end users. It is actually a benign-sounding name for price regulation.

Influential coalitions of economic interests and academics have proposed that local broadband Internet access providers be prohibited...

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