Bush and Kerry Debate Technology: Page 2

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Debating the Issues

Spam has become a major IT issue, requiring companies to devote sometimes teams of tech workers to deal with this bandwidth-clogging problem. It overflows inboxes, crashes email servers, and increasingly carries a payload of damaging viruses.

Kerry's technology advisor says spam is a tricky issue and Kerry's administration would allow the tech market to come up with solutions for it.

''He would rely as much as possible on the marketplace for solutions and creating new technologies that empower users,'' says Kalil.

To help combat the growing spam problem, last year Bush signed the CAN-Spam Act into law. For one thing, the law calls for spammers to provide an opt-out link within the body of the message. The act also is designed to help level civil and criminal penalties on spam offenders.

''The new law establishes important 'rules of the road' for civil enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), other federal agencies, state attorneys general, and ISPs to help curb Spam,'' Bush wrote in response to CompTIA's question.

However, Atkinson of the Progressive Policy Institute says the CAN-Spam Act hasn't decreased the amount of spam hitting his inbox.

''It is a highly ineffective and compromised bill,'' he says. ''No one should be surprised to see spam continue to increase. It never even hiccupped.''

Bailey says that while more needs to be done in the battle against spam, the act was a good stepping stone.

''It was an important first step,'' Bailey says. ''It wasn't the last step, and not the only step, but a necessary step.'' Bailey adds that it is too soon to tell if the act has had any effect on the amount of spam circulating the Internet.

Shawn McCarthy, senior analyst and program manager for government IT spending at IDC, an industry analyst firm based in Framingham, Mass., says the CAN-Spam act hasn't done the job.

''It has made a slight difference, but that's not enough,'' McCarthy says. ''Spam amounts dipped modestly, but only temporarily.''

McCarthy says he thinks it will be difficult for an administration to halt spam without eliminating all advertising emails.

Dealing with Job Loss

Over the past three years, many American IT workers have lost their jobs because U.S. companies moved the work to foreign shores, taking advantage of lower pay scales in countries like India, China and the Philippines. This offshoring trend began with call center and entry-level programming jobs, but it's moving up the IT ladder now with mid-level and even some upper-level technology jobs disappearing here in the U.S.

And with high-end, high-paying jobs on the line, offshoring has become a political hot button. What should, and can, be done is being hotly debated.

''Today's jobs tend to move to where they can be done more effectively,'' says Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, a Nashua, N.H.-based industry analyst firm. ''There is not a great deal a government can or should do about that movement.''

Both candidates say they recognize that offshoring of U.S. tech jobs is an inevitable aspect of the global economy, however their approaches to dealing with the issue differ.

''This is a business trend,'' Bailey says. ''We may see it taper off a bit. No one really knows how many jobs are being moved overseas.''

Thomas Lenard, Ph.D, vice president for research at The Progress and Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington D.C., says he thinks the Bush administration is handling the outsourcing issue well.

''They reacted well to the trend,'' Lenard says. ''This is a part of international trade that benefits us all.''

Bailey says Bush is concerned when any American worker loses his job, regardless of the reason. He says the Bush administration is focused on job-training services that aid the American worker in finding a new career.

Kalil, though, says the Bush administration has created a massive amount of job loss.

''Look at the results,'' Kalil says. ''There are 800,000 lost IT jobs in the US. Bush is the first president since Hoover that we see a net decline in the private sector.''

Kerry will work to create 12 million new jobs if elected, Kalil says.

Many analysts think IT workers should be awarded the same benefits, counseling and job retraining given to manufacturing workers when their jobs began moving overseas in previous decades.

Haff says these actions are vital in easing the job displacement process.

''Those kinds of programs can only ease the pain and relocation somewhat,'' Haff says. ''They are never going to eliminate the burden of these shifts, but they are certainly well-worth doing.''

Kalil says that while there will always be job loss due to outsourcing, Kerry's administration would take steps to curb this trend and support unemployed Americans. He says Kerry would diminish the tax breaks given to companies for sending jobs overseas and create tax credits for new jobs.

But Bailey notes that during his presidency, Bush has increased the Training Assistance Adjustment budget by 150 percent. He also has upped job-training funds by 12 percent.

Bush also plans to propose a Personal Re-employment Account that will grant displaced workers funds toward finding a new job. If the person lands a new job within 13 weeks, the balance goes into their pocket, Bailey says.

Building Cyber Security

Malware, industrial spies and black hat hackers cause massive amounts of damage to enterprise networks every year. Now foreign-based hackers are being added to that mix. Without a viable solution neutralizing these attacks, the candidates also voiced concerns about cyber security and just how to handle it.

''We need a president who will devote the energy of the White House to making our networks -- our 21st century infrastructure -- stronger and more secure,'' Kerry wrote in response to CompTIA's question. ''That means supporting a Cyber Security Intelligence System ready to detect these threats.''

Kalil says Kerry's Cyber Security Intelligence System refers to ways to stomp out new kinds of worms and viruses. He says Kerry plans on increasing funding for research and development so the IT industry can design technologies and solutions for these dangers.

The Bush camp takes a slightly different stance.

''The investments being made today in securing our nation's cyber infrastructure and in cyber security R&D are working to ensure that future generations of network software and hardware are less vulnerable to an attack and can maintain critical operations even when compromised,'' Bush writes.

** To discuss the election and how its outcome might affect the IT industry, check out our IT Forum.


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