March 2, 2017

GLANZEL | Let Silicon Valley Thrive: Part II

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In my last column, I discussed how the federal government should take steps on an international level to help grow the tech industry. I firmly believe that Silicon Valley represents the height of American entrepreneurship, ingenuity and creativity –– and the government must take every step possible to ensure that the tech world’s potential is fully realized. In this article, I want to look at what the government can do on a more domestic level to help expand Silicon Valley and the rest of America’s booming technology sector.

Perhaps the most important step forward for Silicon Valley is a radical change in our secondary education system. For there to be a massive expansion in the tech industry, students across the nation must receive a highly robust education that fosters a love and intellectual curiosity for science, technology, engineering and math. Unfortunately, the vast majority of American students are not receiving this kind of education.

Currently, well-developed STEM curricula are reserved only for private and elite public schools in America’s wealthiest neighborhoods. In these schools, students are given the opportunity to have strong introductions to complex topics such as neuroscience, microelectronics, algorithms, software engineering and molecular genetics. Armed with this strong background in STEM, these students are able to attend highly competitive universities and achieve great levels of success. Yet most of America’s students are not given this opportunity. Instead, most students across the nation face science and math curricula that are overly broad and highly lacking in depth of content.

The lack of a well-developed national STEM curriculum is the product of federal mismanagement and a lack of proper funding. The Department of Education has, for too long, focused on achieving high levels of performance on standardized tests. The focus on standardized testing has distracted the Department of Education from encouraging the development of a modern education system that fosters an understanding of STEM topics. At the same time, most school districts across the nation are severely underfunded in their math and science departments. Though I almost always favor a more fiscally hawkish approach the budget, I strongly believe that we must expand federal education funding. Every child, regardless of socio-economic status, deserves access to in-depth and well-devised math and science curricula.

With better access to proper STEM education, more students than ever before will be able to enter the fields of engineering and technology. Previously unutilized talent will enter the market and help to expand the world of technology, while tech firms across the nation will have a much larger pool of candidates to fulfill critical company roles.

Yet while education reform is crucial step forward in growing Silicon Valley, it is not the only step that the federal government must make on the domestic level. One of the great challenges to start-ups in Silicon Valley is the immense regulatory and tax burden of the federal government. To navigate the massively complex tax and regulatory codes, start-ups must immediately hire an expensive legal team –– an expense that drains valuable capital from young companies.

To create an environment in which start-ups can thrive, the federal government must greatly reduce the size and complexity of the tax and regulatory codes. With simpler and smaller codes, companies will find it much easier to navigate regulatory waters –– which, in turn, will reduce legal fees and thus increase the capital available to grow new companies.

The final step to ensure Silicon Valley’s growth is a rather broad policy proposal: infrastructure reform. One of the greatest hurdles to technology expansion is the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. From roads to bridges to airports to even sewer systems, America’s infrastructure is decaying at an astonishing rate. Without a strong infrastructural base, the growth and expansion of tech firms will forever be relegated to the select regions of the nation that have access to the best infrastructure.

One of the first steps that should be taken to benefit the tech industry in the world of infrastructure is to expand internet access, as the lack of good internet access in certain regions of the nation makes the tech world inaccessible to millions of Americans. To fix this problem, the federal government should encourage widespread access to Wi-Fi via tax rebates and cooperation with local governments. At the same time, a rebuilding of our roads, bridges and airports is necessary for the growth of tech firms. President Trump recently proposed a major project that would help to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. And while I don’t see eye-to-eye with President Trump on many issues, I think we should take the president’s lead on this one. Though the project will be costly, our nation — especially our technology sector — cannot function if our roads and bridges are crumbling beneath us.
Overall, I firmly believe that Silicon Valley, and the tech industry as a whole, is a force for good. The sheer numbers of jobs that the tech industry supplies, combined with the massive expansion of information facilitated by tech companies, shows how important Silicon Valley has become to our economy and way of life. It is for this reason that the government must take these crucial steps to ensure that Silicon Valley will continue to thrive.


Michael Glanzel is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]Cornell Shrugged appears alternate Thursdays this semester.