Civic News

The case for sitting on Trump’s tech council

The American Tech Council's mission of modernizing government IT deserves “our attention as well as our scrutiny,” Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka writes in a WaPo op-ed.

The White House.

( photo)

Tech bigwigs are heading to the White House today for a meeting with President Donald Trump.

According to Politico, the group includes Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, among others.

Officially, it’s a meeting of the American Technology Council, which is designed to modernize the federal government’s IT systems. The plan for Monday is to spend time brainstorming ideas in working groups before the meeting with Trump.

Some of the same tech CEOs went to Trump Tower in December. The tension was noted at the time, since many didn’t vote for him. Since then, tech leaders denounced his administration’s attempt to ban immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, and decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords.

That might beg the question: Why go? As Politico notes, Facebook is notably absent from the attendee list. And Elon Musk bowed out of his role helping Trump after the climate decision.

For Jennifer Pahlka, it’s about the issues on the table today. The Code for America executive director who served as U.S. Deputy CTO in the Obama administration will be among those at the meeting.


In a Washington Post op-ed published Monday, she makes the case for attending. Pahlka writes that the Trump administration’s actions on the issues mentioned above are “deeply disturbing.” However, she sees the Council as a chance to make progress on other, less sexy issues like cloud computing and user-centered design that will be the topic of the meeting.

It’s not a blanket endorsement. Such an effort deserves “our attention as well as our scrutiny,” she writes, adding that “it can succeed only if the discussion of modernizing government puts the fundamental premise of our movement front and center: that government can work for the American people and by the American people — all the people.”

Read the op-ed -30-
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