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Big names descend on White House for Trump’s technology summit

Mon., June 19, 2017, 8:54 a.m.

In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook waves at members of the media as he leaves 10 Downing Street in London. (Matt Dunham / Associated Press)
In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook waves at members of the media as he leaves 10 Downing Street in London. (Matt Dunham / Associated Press)

Executives from many of the world’s largest technology companies will gather Monday at the White House to meet with President Donald Trump and his senior advisers during a summit aimed at modernizing the federal government.

The four-hour event is the first major meeting of the American Technology Council, a new group that Trump commissioned in May that’s being led by Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law.

The agenda will include working sessions on issues including cyber security, big data, fraud detection, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, according to a White House document outlining the program.

A who’s who of technology names is expected to attend, including Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty.

“While the government is responsible for providing services for citizens, private industry has the luxury of being able to provide truly specialized user experiences,” the White House document says.

Trump’s May 1 executive order creating the American Technology Council called for the group of federal officials to overhaul the use of technology across the government. ”Americans deserve better digital services from their government,” Trump wrote in the order.

The federal government spends more than $80 billion annually on information technology, employing about 113,000 IT professionals, according to the White House. But many of the information systems used by federal agencies are outdated and inefficient, according to two senior administration officials who briefed reporters about the meeting on condition of anonymity.

A recent decision by Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to contract with a private company to manage the department’s electronic medical records is an example of the kind of changes the American Technology Council will pursue, the officials said.

Much of the agenda for Monday’s meeting will involve seeking ways for the Trump administration to adopt best practices from the private sector, including finding opportunities to recruit talented individuals to join the government.

The officials will also hold a discussion on the H-1B visa program, which Trump has pledged to scale back despite the objections from Silicon Valley.

The meeting will also be notable for who doesn’t attend. Several technology CEOs have been put off by Trump’s policies on issues including the environment and immigration. Tesla CEO Elon Musk left two of Trump’s advisory councils earlier this month after the president announced that he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement.

Additionally, Trump hasn’t filled several top technology positions within the federal government, including those of chief technology officer and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Both officials are listed as members of the American Technology Council.

Trump’s efforts to reach out to Silicon Valley follow the example of former President Barack Obama, who met regularly with technology executives and launched the U.S. Digital Service in an effort to recruit private-sector talent and modernize government.



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