Another meeting between Donald Trump and some of the tech industry’s top CEOs took place yesterday. The inaugural gathering of the American Technology Council saw the president call for a “sweeping transformation of the federal government’s technology.”
Trump signed an executive order in May that established the council, which was created to modernize the government’s technological systems, cut costs, and improve services.
“Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution,” said Trump. “America should be the global leader in government technology just as we are in every other aspect, and we are going to start our big edge again in technology – such an important industry.”
CEOs from firms such as Adobe, Akamai, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, Palantir, and Qualcomm were in attendance, along with investors such as Peter Thiel, who was one of the few Silicon Valley execs to show support for Trump during his presidential campaign.
One notable absentee was Facebook. While it was COO Sheryl Sandberg, rather than Mark Zuckerberg, who represented the company at December’s meeting with Trump, the social network sent no representatives to yesterday’s summit. It did receive an invitation, but the firm blamed “scheduling conflicts” for its absence. Former advisers Travis Kalanick, on a leave of absence following the death of his mother, and Elon Musk, who promised to quit Trump’s councils in protest against leaving the Paris Agreement, were also missing.
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, highlighted some of the outdated systems still used by the government, including parts of the Pentagon that rely on floppy disks, and over 6000 decades-old datacenters maintained by federal agencies.
“Together we will unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services in a way that has never happened before,” said Kushner, before the session began.
Recode reports that many of those in attendance were pushing their own agendas. Amazon's Jeff Bezos called on the government to take advantage of the type of commercial technology his company sells. Palantir CEO Alex Carp spoke about how big data could help stop fraudulent federal spending. And Tim Cook said that the US should make coding a requirement in schools. The Apple CEO also talked about the importance of immigration, encryption, human rights, and serving veterans through medical care and hiring policies.
More meetings are scheduled during the White House’s “tech week,” including one that will cover drones this Thursday and the announcement of “additional tech reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday.”