Big names descend on White House for summit
Exceutives from Apple, Microsoft and others were set to meet with Kushner
Executives from many of the world’s largest technology companies were set to gather Monday at the White House to meet with President Donald Trump and his senior advisers during a summit aimed at modernizing the federal government.
The four-hour event was the first major meeting of the American Technology Council, a new group that Trump commissioned in May that’s being led by Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law.
The agenda was to include working sessions on issues such as cyber security, big data, fraud detection, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, according to a White House document outlining the program.
A who’s who of technology names was expected to attend, including Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.
“While the government is responsible for providing services for citizens, private industry has the luxury of being able to provide truly specialized user experiences,’’ the White House document said.
Trump’s May 1 executive order creating the American Technology Council called for the group of federal officials to over haul the use of technology across the government. “Americans deserve better digital services from their government,” Trump wrote in the order.
The federal government spends more than $80 billion annually on information technology, employing about 113,000 IT professionals, according to the White House. But many of the information systems used by federal agencies are outdated and inefficient, according to two senior administration officials who briefed reporters about the meeting on condition of anonymity.
A recent decision by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to contract with a private company to manage the department’s electronic medical records is an example of the kind of changes the American Technology Council will pursue, the officials said.
Much of the agenda for Monday’s meeting will involve seeking ways for the Trump administration to adopt best practices from the private sector, including finding opportunities to recruit talented individuals to join the government.
The officials also were to hold a discussion on the H-1B visa program, which Trump has pledged to scale back despite the objections from Silicon Valley.
The meeting also could be notable for who didn’t attend. Several technology CEOs have been put off by Trump’s policies on issues including the environment and immigration.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk left two of Trump’s advisory councils earlier this month after the president announced that he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.
In addition, Trump hasn’t filled several top technology positions within the federal government, including those of chief technology officer and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Both officials are listed as members of the American Technology Council.
Trump’s efforts to reach out to Silicon Valley follow the example of former president Barack Obama, who met regularly with technology executives and launched the U.S. Digital Service in an effort to recruit private-sector talent and modernize government.