Following the improbable victory of Donald Trump in the recently concluded US elections 2016, Silicon Valley is one of the hard-hit sectors. The Republican candidate had campaigned against global trade, offshore labor and foreign skilled workers — elements which form the foundation of the tech industry today. Amidst all the remarks on Mexicans and Muslims, to rape allegations against himself, there had been little for the tech companies in the campaign cycle. Given the newly-elected president’s lack of clarity on pro-innovation policies, something which former president Barack Obama focused on, the future looks full of uncertainties for the tech industry.
Trump’s views about technology and related policies during his campaign cycle have been of questionable nature. He has also called out to boycott tech giant Apple for its strong iPhone encryption to his unclear take on the H1-B visa for skilled foreign workers which is vital for prominent companies like Google and Facebook. In response to Trump’s victory, which is likely to threaten the global trade approach technology companies have been long working towards, a common sentiment that has emerged across Silicon Valley companies is to ‘come together’ and ‘move forward’.
The US companies started reacting, albeit with caution, to Trump’s victory and pointed to uncertainty over his lack of clear policy proposals. Indian-origin Satya Nadella, who currently heads Microsoft maintained his cool in a situation of extreme division and congratulated Trump and said the company looked forward to working with him. The Microsoft chief also highlighted that the company will continue to foster a ‘diverse and inclusive culture’ — a subtle rejection of Trump’s much debated statements about restrictions on high-skilled immigration to the country. A separate post by Brad Smith – President and Chief Legal Officer at Microsoft, hinted at the company’s lack of preparedness for the future under Trump’s leadership. Smith writes, “As we think about the future, we know we don’t have all the answers, but four issues rise near the top as we think about the country and information technology.” These issues include job growth, infrastructure investments, diversity in workforce, and most importantly support by the government to strike a balance between privacy and public security. Encryption and surveillance have topped the list of sticky issues across tech companies following the revelation by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the massive secret surveillance program carried out by the US government on its citizens. ALSO READ: US Elections 2016 live streaming videos broke all records on the internet: Akamai
Following Microsoft’s footsteps, Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a memo to his employees in which he quoted Dr Martin Luther King and called on his workforce to come together and ‘keep moving forward.’ He wrote, “We have a very diverse team of employees, including supporters of each of the candidates. Regardless of which candidate each of us supported as individuals, the only way to move forward is to move forward together. I recall something Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said 50 years ago: “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” This advice is timeless, and a reminder that we only do great work and improve the world by moving forward.” Cook further stressed that Apple’s North Star hasn’t changed and that the company, “is open to all, and we celebrate the diversity of our team here in the United States and around the world — regardless of what they look like, where they come from, how they worship or who they love.” Similar sentiments resonate across the tech industry in the US. For countries like India, which outsources talent to Silicon Valley giants to help advance global technology, Trump’s victory has put a lot of students in limbo who have been aspiring to secure work permit. His dubious take on the H1-B visa, highlighted by Apple and Microsoft, could fuel more confusion and put the student and professionals’ community in a state of concern.
Even before the results of the elections were announced, Shervin Pishevar, co-founder of venture capital firm Sherpa Capital, which invests in some of the biggest names in the industry such as Uber and Airbnb, tweeted that if Trump wins he would start funding a campaign for California to become its own country. Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pisheva chimed in with his support and so did former Facebooker, investor, and Path co-founder Dave Morin. ALSO READ: US President Barack Obama criticized Facebook of spreading fake stories
Meanwhile, Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has taken a middle ground on the verdict, noting in his post that to create the world we want for our children will require a lot of work — work that is “bigger than any presidency.” The social networking site has also come under fire for influencing the election results owing to numerous false news articles circulating on its platform. The site serves as a source of news and information for millions of people across the globe. While CEO Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed the allegations, saying, “Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook, which is a very small amount of the content, influenced the election in any way, I think is a pretty crazy idea.” However, given the reach of every single piece of information shared on the global platform, it is hard to believe that a significant number of voters could have been potentially misled owing to some random piece of so-called news they came across on the social media.
A research report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a US-based non-profit group, predicts what Trump’s victory means for the technology sector. Other than the issue about skilled immigration and encryption, Trump will also be dealing with the growing instances of massive cyber attacks which threaten not only the US but a lot of its partner countries. The report notes that there have been questions about Trump’s possible control of the nuclear codes and his handling of the growing cyber threat from the likes of China, Russia and stateless hacking groups. Another issue that has the tech industry divided is net neutrality. In one of his tweets, Trump said, “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target the conservative media.” This statement further underlined Trump’s lack of clarity on a subject like net neutrality which is aimed at free and open internet to all.
All of this sums up the uncertainty for the Silicon Valley which is a global home for tech innovation. The US tech industry is not a one-player success but a teamwork that has brought together the world’s best talents that helped churn out revolutionary technologies including something as mundane as smartphones to mass-reaching ambitious projects like Google’s Project Loon. As the world waits to hear more on formal policies rolled out by the newly elected president, we can only hope that President Trump gives the deserved share of attention to the sector and ensures a fair and global approach to innovation. ALSO READ: US Elections 2016: From Modi’s ‘Trump’ card, to Hillary-ious presidential jokes, clap for the best memes on the internet