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CIO - "Part of our problem is in China, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In the United States, Britney Spears is Britney Spears."
Inspired by John F. Kennedy's call to land an astronaut to the moon, the OSTP is challenging industry members and government agencies, academics and philanthropic organizations to dream big and imagine ways to harness technology to solve some of the country's most pressing problems.
"We are pitchable," Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy at the OSTP, said in remarks here at the Reboot America Summit, a conference focused on startups and policy challenges in the nation's capital.
Kalil cited Google's project to develop driverless cars, noting that the company built on work conducted under a program of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a group that was instrumental in the early development of the Internet.
Similarly, he called attention to the work that IBM has been doing in artificial intelligence, creating supercomputers that have defeated chess great Garry Kasparov and Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings, splashy exhibits designed in part as proof-of-concept for technology that ultimately could be applied to real-world challenges like health care or energy.
Other examples Kalil cited included PayPal cofounder Elon Musk's latest venture, the aerospace company SpaceX, and the sequencing of the human genome, once a forbidding challenge that involved inordinate time and expense, but that has become far simpler thanks to the abundance of low-cost computing power.
"The cost of genome sequencing has been falling by a factor of 12," Kalil said, adding that that pace was "kicking Moore's law's ass."
The administration's work promoting technology to address so-called grand challenges builds on previous outreach efforts to court the business and startup communities and build collaborative partnerships with the private sector.
White Urges Tech Innovation
Last January, the White House convened business and philanthropic leaders to unveil the Startup America Partnership, a campaign to help incubate and launch innovative startup businesses that has drawn on funding commitments from some of the biggest names in tech, including Facebook, HP and Intel. Startup America is chaired by AOL co-founder Steve Case.
The administration also won a legislative victory this year with the passage of the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act, intended to ease the path for startups to secure capital through mechanisms such as crowdfunding.
A bipartisan group of senators has also brought forward a measure to relax immigration restrictions for highly skilled workers, provide a capital gains exemption for startups and other provisions to create a more favorable climate to help early-stage businesses to get off the ground and thrive.