Posted at 11:20 AM
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker sat down with Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media at the Next Economy Summit in San Francisco to discuss the Department’s efforts to strengthen the digital economy and to improve the collection and dissemination of its troves of data. The Summit brought together other CEOs, thought leaders, policy makers, and others who have a stake in shaping the future economy.
Secretary Pritzker and Mr. O’Reilly discussed the challenges and opportunities of the next economy and types of policies that must be in place to ensure its success. Secretary Pritzker emphasized that the Department of Commerce actively works to position the U.S. as a global leader in the digital economy and on the open data movement.
In response to a question about the government’s role in shaping the economy, Secretary Pritzker outlined how the Department of Commerce creates the conditions for private sector growth and prosperity. She noted that while government cannot directly create companies, it can craft policy that supports businesses as well as foster effective public-private partnerships. For example, through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), government is able to set the rules of the global economy in order to advance economic strengths and values while protecting American companies from unfair trade.
During the discussion, Mr. O’Reilly asked about the role of businesses in ensuring America’s workforce has the skills needed to grow the digital economy. Secretary Pritzker stressed that only through partnerships with employers can the education and workforce systems succeed in preparing workers for the careers that will be created by the digital economy. As an example of this collaborative model, President Obama launched TechHire in March 2015, a public-private program to fill more than 600,000 open technology jobs. In June of this year, the Obama administration awarded $150 million in Department of Labor grants for 39 public-private partnerships to help train tomorrow’s workforce in rapid-growth sectors like tech, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.
Underscoring the Department’s efforts to bring a data-driven approach to government, Secretary Pritzker highlighted Commerce’s successes in making data more widely available. The Department of Commerce is one of the largest publishers of government data—it truly is “America’s Data Agency”—however the Secretary noted the Department’s goal is to encourage small businesses, non-profits, and citizens to use data to make better decisions every day. In that spirit, the Department has created the Commerce Data Service (CDS), an elite team of data scientists and engineers who are helping to clean and prepare our data for better public use.
Commerce is committed to drive more and better use of its data, and is pushing to make its existing open data accessible to more users. That is why the Department issued a call to action to companies, developers and data scientists to help with the "last mile" problem – to build applications and business intelligence tools on top of our data to solve specific problems faced by those who are "data poor," such that these tools can be scaled for wide use.
The discussion also addressed what automation and digitization means for the future of the economy. Secretary Pritzker explained that these forces create both opportunity and disruption for American workers. In terms of opportunity, digitization and automation are revolutionizing how we manufacture goods, changing how our supply chains function, and transforming the products we use – thus creating high-skilled, high paying jobs. To support training for these new jobs, the Department of Commerce created the “Skills for Business” agenda to ensure training programs are employer-led, and provides localized solutions to talent pipeline challenges.
Throughout the panel discussion, Secretary Pritzker stressed that government alone cannot create jobs or economic output. The government can however create conditions for the private sector to grow. By opening up government data and embracing the idea of an open digital economy, the private sector and government can ensure future success of the U.S. economy.