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Microsoft, IBM and other companies urged the president-elect to consider policies for boosting workforce development, solving the pandemic and addressing biometrics in surveillance.
In the days after national news outlets declared President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the winners of the 2020 election, technology companies unleashed letters and social media posts loaded with congratulations—and policy proposals for America’s next administration to pursue.
While President Donald Trump has yet to concede the election, senior officials from some of the nation’s top tech giants already expressed commitment to work with the incoming leaders and underscored the need for unity across America’s polarized political landscape.
“Election Day this year turned into a very long and tense election week, with many Americans glued to their screens anxiously awaiting the outcome. It has been commonplace to hear pundits speculate that we have seldom seemed such a divided country,” Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a blog Saturday, offering good wishes to Biden and Harris. “If we are to move forward as a nation, we must build new bridges to close the gaps that divide us.”
Smith spotlighted what he called a present “opportunity to separate policies from politics, so we can make a real difference in people’s lives.” He called for new workforce training and education programs to help people across the nation access new digital skills, and for countrywide internet access and connectivity.
“A nation that would not tolerate millions of Americans living without electricity should no longer accept millions of families without broadband,” Smith said.
Microsoft’s blog also articulated the need for innovative tech to help usher in “a new era for enhanced public sector services and efficiencies,” as well as the need for safeguards to govern technologies like facial recognition and revamped and new electronic privacy laws that are “fit for the future.”
“People of all political backgrounds care deeply about the privacy of their data and the security of their internet services,” Smith wrote.
The company’s co-founder, Bill Gates, also took to Twitter to congratulate the new administration and articulated hopes to work with them and members across Congress to confront the pandemic, engage international partners on issues including poverty and climate change, and addressing inequality in the states.
IBM CEO Arvind Krishna in a letter said the company shares Biden's and Harris' “vision of using science to control the virus, widening economic opportunities, achieving racial justice and combatting the climate crisis,” echoing the list of top priorities on the administration's transition site.
The company helped create the Covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium harnessing the capabilities of many leading supercomputing players from early into the pandemic, and in IBM’s letter, Krishna called for the next administration to continue to turn to science and collaboration to fight Covid-19. In that light, the official also emphasized that the company intends to work directly with the national laboratories to provide dedicated access to quantum computing systems that hold promise to accelerate the discovery of new treatments.
“As you know, artificial intelligence systems can play a key role in helping doctors to treat cancer and other illnesses,” Krishna added. “We therefore suggest that your administration consider creating a National Research Cloud for AI that would provide the American scientific research community with access to AI tools from both the public and private sector.”
Creative new educational and training opportunities to help close the digital divide are called for in the note, which also encourages the new administration to push federal agencies to adopt a hybrid cloud information technology infrastructure and make moves to promote “an open, secure 5G ecosystem through open radio network standards.” Krishna further noted that the company stands ready to work with Biden and Harris to help build public trust in emerging technologies, including “on measures to prohibit the use or export of facial recognition for mass surveillance, racial profiling, or violations of basic human rights and freedoms.”
A statement congratulating Biden was also sent by the Business Roundtable, an official association of chief executives from leading U.S. businesses including Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Intel, Verizon and many more. “As we enter another period of closely divided government,” Business Roundtable’s note said, “we call on elected officials and Americans across the political spectrum to work in good faith to find common ground.”
Unlike most of the other correspondences though, this publication also gave an explicit callout to President Trump.
“Business Roundtable commends President Trump for a hard-fought campaign that has garnered over 70 million votes. We know the outcome is disappointing to his millions of supporters,” it said. “While we respect the Trump campaign’s right to seek recounts, to call for investigation of alleged voting irregularities where evidence exists and to exhaust legitimate legal remedies, there is no indication that any of these would change the outcome.”
Several of the companies that spoke out in praise also reportedly contributed financially to Biden’s win.
And the messages of support were not limited to company websites. Many senior officials used social media to congratulate the new leaders and share messages to their broader audiences.
Cisco’s CEO Chuck Robbins emphasized Harris’ “glass-shattering accomplishment” as the first woman and woman of color to ever be elected vice president, in a thread on Twitter and said the company is “eager to work with the new administration [and] Congress to strengthen digital infrastructure to help businesses, schools, hospitals [and] government agencies modernize.”
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg also published a Facebook post cheering on Harris’ achievement. AOL Founder Steve Case and several others also tweeted, or posted notes on Instagram.
And Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos posted a photo of Harris and Biden on Instagram, captioned: “Unity, empathy, and decency are not characteristics of a bygone era. Congratulations President-elect @JoeBiden and Vice President-elect @KamalaHarris. By voting in record numbers, the American people proved again that our democracy is strong.”
Google did not yet issue any statements on the election, Nextgov confirmed Tuesday.
Brandi Vincent is a staff correspondent at Nextgov.