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back to article Gates calls on Feds to plug tech investment gap

Bill Gates has once again warned Washington that it must do more to fill the gap in US technology investment ahead of the "second digital decade". The Microsoft chairman and co-founder also returned to familiar ground during a keynote address yesterday to some 1,000 members of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, talking …

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Unhappy

With all...

.. the amazing digital cock-ups of the first "Digital Decade" I really, really fear what will happen in the second one.

Just remember if your supermarkets computer system goes down - you can't buy food. At a small local shop you probably can.

And, Bill, how do you see the poor, the starving, the dispossessed, the uneducated, getting on in your brave new second digital decade ?

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Gates Halo

Good lad

With the protectionism being talked about by the two Democrat candidates this kind of public airing of these issues can only be good for the US enconomy and, by extension, the rest of the world.

Like it or not, the US economy is one of the largest engines of growth in the world and that benefits us here in the UK. It'd be a lovely pipe dream to say that if the US took fewer H1Bs then a zero-sum model would place the benefit of their skills in other places (Britain for example) but that ignores the cluster effects of places like Silicon Valley.

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Anonymous Coward

Highly unlikely

I guess M$ does not need any spy to punch security holes in their OS & ActiveX but since the US are a bit afraid of terrorists of any sort they'd be reluctant to let in some foreigners to work on potentially sensitive techs.

Having their military planes refilled by Airbus rather than Boeing may not have all to do with money and local labour.

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Anonymous Coward

US Tech trade deficit $38.3 billion

"these issues can only be good for the US enconomy and, by extension, the rest of the world."

Barf, sorry I had a marketing man vomit moment there.

MSFT in April 07 was worth about $28 = 20.7 Euros

And MSFT in March 08 is about the same $28 = only 18.2 Euros.

So MSFT stock is worth 10% less now than a year ago. Largely because good ole Bush & Cheney are trying to print dollars to get themselves out of trouble and it's driving down the dollar.

When he calls for investment in IT, he's trying to get a cut of that funny money their pumping into the US economy, since it will protect MSFT from asset devaluation caused by this drop in the dollar. Fail to get it and MSFT stock will still be worth $28 next year, but $28 won't be worth much.

As for H1B, it's the time of year when he usually does this. If H1B's fixed the problem, then why isn't it fixed? USA became a net IMPORTER of IT, it now has a deficit even in IT! So is this the right direction? Did you make the right choices by undermining your own industry, training up competitors and exporting them again after 5 years?

It's clear as day, you introduced H1B, it let companies train up and export their IT, development to cheaper markets, now you have a deficit.

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Linux

Whatever you think of Microshaft

Whatever your views, Bill Gates has a keen accumen and a fair amount of public weight. At least he is prepared to speak out for things that he thinks matter, and fyi James, Bill has very strong opinions on the poor, starving etc etc of this world. That's why he's resigned his key interventions at Microsoft, to concentrate on his Charitable foundation.

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Happy

@James

"And, Bill, how do you see the poor, the starving, the dispossessed, the uneducated, getting on in your brave new second digital decade ?"

Why, he sees them using Wintel products of course:

http://www.gadgetell.com/tech/comment/microsofts-classmate-pc-offering-some-competition-for-the-olpc-project/

Admittedly that might not help the dispossessed and the starving (as opposed to the poor or under-educated), but if anyone doubts the value of the OLPC or the Classmate, have a look at this BBC report - it's worth it:

http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=-7242425422174872586

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Gates Horns

@Good Lad

"Like it or not, the US economy is one of the largest engines of growth in the world and that benefits us here in the UK."

Repeat after me "sub-prime' and 'Northern Rock".

As an ex-pat Brit who has seen their income decrease by 10% in the last few months I can say (income sterling, expenditure euros) I can say that you are talking crap.

The "largest engine of growth" is China - which is why dear Billy (amongst others) has bent over backwards to support their abuse of human rights so that the balance sheet looks prettier.

Amazing that he keeps banging on about "surface computing" and "speech recognition"; although he did come to the internet late as well.

'Protectionism' doesn't look good to the WTO.

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Anonymous Coward

The fat lazy hitchhiker of the world

I'm going to say it again, the USA is not the 'engine' of the worlds economy, it's the fat lazy hitchhiker of the worlds economy and it's gotten a free ride for years.

Net negative production, it runs at a huge deficit, it does not sell enough to cover it's imports.

Net negative return on debt. After devaluation, the people that lent it money won't even see the original capital back, let alone any interest.

Net negative growth, go look at that growth number again, and take out inflation from imports.

What it's done for the last 8 years is borrow and borrow and borrow because Bush/Cheney would not balance their budgets or grow the economy. What's it's done for the last 2 years is print dollars because borrowing was no longer covering the debts they were running up.

Great, so you're biggest export is US$ and most successful business is hiding the money supply numbers and we're just supposed to cover for you? Why?

It's the fat lazy hitchhiker and it's time for the free ride to end.

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US Tech trade deficit $38.3 billion

No one and no company seriosuly values themselves in Euros.

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Gates Horns

'Shortage'

I'm not a business or economy expert, of course, but I read a very believable article the other day about how the so-called shortage of skilled IT people is merely an invention of the industry. They use it to import foreign workers on H1Bs, which they can pay less and treat even more like serfs than American workers. I tend to believe it; if there's really such a shortage of skilled IT workers, why is it so hard for me and the other IT professionals I know to get good jobs?

It's kind of like the farm industry over here whining about losing cheap Mexican labor. There's no job Americans won't do, just jobs Americans won't do for crap wages.

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Thumb Down

@julian

"No one and no company seriosuly values themselves in Euros."

I'm undecided about whether you're an American who doesn't look beyond 'Faux News' or a Brit who doesn't look outside The Daily Mail/Express.

So what do French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Dutch, Austrian, et al companies value themselves in? What are their balance sheets printed in?

Dollar is fallling because there is no faith in it. Oil is rising because people are using their dollars to buy futures contracts. Same reason gold has gone up 30% since December. The euro is going up against the dollar & pound, because of the same lack of faith in the almighty dollar.

US National debt has almost doubled over the past 8 years.

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Unhappy

H-1B a bad thing?

Hey AC! You *do* realize that getting an H-1B is one of the few ways for a skilled worker who *wants* to move/live in the US to actually do so?

It is also a piece of paper that is only of value IN the US and only for a certain number of years before you either have to have a green card or get your ass kicked out of the country. I'd have to recheck the numbers, but as I recall the first issuance is for 4 years and you can renew it one time for another 4. After that you are either an American or gone.

Last year, the available H-1B slots were gone within a matter of days, and as my immigration lawyer pointed out they have so many candidates you're not even getting looked at seriously unless you have at least a Masters. And of course, you need a job lined up ahead of time, which as someone so kindly pointed out is often underpaid for the work. It's illegal to do so, but hey this is the US we're talking about. Of course, the immigrant is completely at the mercy of the company during that time because if they decide to fire you, it's out of the country you go.

So on the one hand, we have a lot of American citizens who say that allowing immigrants steals jobs from Hard Working Americans. On the other we have highly educated often young people who are willing to put up with a DECADE of being underpaid, and treated as a corporate slave for a *chance* at American citizenship and the opportunity to pay taxes and contribute to the US.

Guess who's side I'm on?

As an aside, I do happen to agree with Geoff's comment that it's a largely artificial shortage, I just happen to object to comments like those by AC to the effect that blocking off immigration of skilled workers will solve problems.

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Gates Horns

Bill is a businessman

n0,000 low salaries for H1-B workers + $nM lobbying fees is still cheaper than n0,000 American salaries.

Sad really.

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Black Helicopters

US needs us to need dollars more than the contrary

"No one and no company seriously values themselves in Euros."

...because if you do, you end up like Iraq' did after moving to take their oil-for-food programme away from dollars.

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Gates Halo

IT Brain Drain per BG

During his round of media appearances following his appearance at Congress, Bill spoke on National Public Radio about the IT worker issues.

During that interview, he argued that Microsoft seeks the most talented Computer Science graduates from the "best schools in the world", which he repeatedly explained are those in the U.S. .. his words. And the "problem" his company faces is that many of the most talented graduates are not native to America, and so are here on student visas, which expire when they graduate, forcing those top-level graduates to return to their own countries and await the granting of a work visa, like the H1-B, for which there is both an exceedingly long waiting period and an exceedingly limited number.

By the way ... there is an exceedingly limited number available because the U.S. government claims it wants American companies to do a lot of hiring of American workers, so if you're out of a job in IT, you're either living in the wrong place or without the proper credentials ... according to them.

Once Bill's company hires a top-level Computer Science graduate, with starting pay of at least $100k/year, from one of the "top schools in the world", he claims to build groups of additional employees around the treasured CS grads, to support them in their ground-breaking work. He argued that his company prefers to hire American talent in these roles, and that there are very few American top-level CS graduates available.

So, to paraphrase, "Give Microsoft more foreign worker visas and we will hire more Americans, too."

It is not enough for Microsoft to establish corporate presences in other countries ... getting all of those American support personnel visas to do their jobs in almost every other nation is far more of a hassle than getting the foreign nationals to work in America. Think about THAT for a moment as you bash U.S. visa policies, all of you Brits.

The "tech investment gap" referred to in this article's headline, in Bill's robust capitalistic mind, would have to do with both the investment in foreign workers' abilities to maintain their jobs in America and in American scholastic achievement. Congress can only help with the visa element. Excelling in the scholastic element is up to those who seek work in computing-related fields.

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tom

Software sweatshops, the american dream

It continues to amaze me how the US has this endless, huge deficit of qualified tech professionals. I guess we're all uneducated and lazy or something. Or maybe, wait, maybe it's that local labor actually wants to get paid?

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Silver badge

@ Software Sweatshops

No it's that local labor wants to get paid too much. Developers are a great example - at the end of the day they are no more highly skilled than an auto mechanic. Using that logic it means that developer salaries should top out around $50k. If they think they are worth more than that, it's time to import equally skilled foreign workers who view themselves, and their salaries reasonably.

(not picking on developers, just an example. Other examples include analysts, software/system architects, system and DB admins.)

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Anonymous Coward

Always need more CS graduates

Since software development is still managed the same failed way they need cheaper and cheaper folks to finish anything at reduced margins. Outsourcing is the result of failed management.

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