Donald Trump has gathered the most prominent American technology executives to the White House and asked them to reform IT across the federal government.
At the first meeting of the American Technology Council – which the president established by executive order in May – Mr Trump stressed the need to “transform and modernise” the US public sector’s use of technology.
“Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution,” he said.
“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.
“We’re embracing big change, bold thinking, and outsider perspectives to transform government and make it the way it should be, and at far less cost.”
Representatives from the largest US tech companies, including the executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook, and Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, discussed how to make the federal government more efficient.
Only the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was unable to attend after being invited.
This was due to “a conflict” according to the company – which did not smother rumours that the CEO is seeking to distance himself from the Trump administration as he considers his own presidential bid in the future.
Mr Trump said: “We have approximately $3.5tn of market value in this room – but that’s almost the exact number that we’ve created since my election.”
“In fact, I think we have you beat by a little bit, which is a pretty good number. But I congratulate you all. Done an amazing job.
“Thank you for lending your time and your talent to the American people. A lot of ideas have come out of the room today, and a lot of ideas will over the next short period of time.”
Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Mr Trump as well as his son-in-law, told the attendees they were going to work “on some of the country’s biggest challenges that will make a very meaningful difference to a lot of its citizens”.
Mr Trump’s complaint regards the slow adoption of new technologies by the public sector.
This is primarily due to the cost of migrating IT services to new technologies, but also because of a pervasive scepticism regarding the savings of doing so and fears of disrupting those services during the move.
An almost universal culture of overspend and under-delivery has dogged public sector IT projects in the US and UK since the 1990s.
In recent years, laws establishing baselines for cybersecurity have also demanded that public agencies hold their data in servers which they maintain in their own data centres, despite the cost savings that would be available if they used commercial cloud computing services.
Mr Bezos, who has made his firm one of the world’s leading cloud computing providers through Amazon Web Services, told attendees that the federal government needed to use more commercial services.
Tim Cook requested that computer coding be taught in every public school.
Mr Nadella agreed, asserting that workers needed more skills for a technology-based economy. He has already criticised Mr Trump’s crackdown on immigration which he believes will hamper overseas hiring.
Also in attendance was venture capitalist John Doerr, who suggested the government should open up its data for private firms to access, saying it would transform health care.
“If you set the data free, the entrepreneurs are going to do the rest,” he told the president.