Our Nation is at risk. While we once dominated the development and production of technology, we now see our eminence overtaken by international competitors. Some may argue that the development of technology has shown steady improvements over past decades by citing increased speed and capacity and decreased price and maintenance, but this would be tantamount to arguing that our public schools are not failing by citing the overall trends of increased literacy, educational attainment, and broad measures of intelligence. No, we cannot allow steady and methodically researched solutions to inform our improvements. We clearly require a complete technology industry overhaul.
Over the years, I have found myself cursing my computer because of shutdowns, incompatibility between operating systems, and slow connections. I have repeatedly asked myself, “Where is Tony Stark? When will he fly in with his metal suit and defeat the red screen of death plaguing our systems?” But we cannot wait for Ironman. We must make the following reforms to the technology industry now:
1. Annual Testing for Technology Users
Bill Gates has argued that “The PC has improved the world in just about every area you can think of. Amazing developments in communications, collaboration and efficiencies. New kinds of entertainment and social media. Access to information and the ability to give a voice people who would never have been heard.” But what evidence can he offer to support this claim without annual testing of every PC user to ensure that they are, indeed, increasing their proficiency in communication and collaboration? How do we know that productivity is increasing for all users and closing the gaps for the voiceless unless we require every user to test their proficiency in the use of technology every year in order to renew their operating system license?
2. Increased Accountability for Technology Developers and Managers
This annual testing could then be used to evaluate the effectiveness of technology developers and managers. A common set of standards should be set for the effectiveness of all technology devices and applications. All user outcomes in a single strand, such as Social Media or Business Productivity, should then be evaluated by this common set of desirable user outcomes. Value added measures can be developed to determine whether technology developers and managers are increasing user productivity, communication skill, and efficiency with each passing year. This would give technology companies an objective measure to determine pay raises, promotions and firing.
3. Recruitment of New Programmers
The technology industry is facing a crisis if more computer programmers are not enlisted to continue America’s preeminence in technology innovation. Efforts are underway to recruit more students into computer engineering degree programs. But there is a better way that will not require a long term investment in computer engineering training programs. I propose recruiting a cadre of young, smart college graduates from any field and preparing them with a five week training camp in computer programming. We can then send them into the highest need, most challenging hardware and software development agencies to fill high-need gaps. These smart young recruits will be ready to be promoted into top level positions as Technology Managers and CEO’s within a few years, transforming the technology industry from within.
While these changes are clearly needed, they will not happen without the support of billionaire private funding and back-channeled influence on our political systems. We must convince large philanthropic organizations to prioritize these efforts immediately if reform is to be achieved.
Becca Leech doesn’t have a degree in Computer Engineering or experience working in the technology field, but has been the frustrated owner of a computer since the mid 1980’s and has experienced many viruses, glitches and computer shutdowns. She speaks and writes on technology reform whenever and wherever she is given the chance.