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Clinton Challenges Technology Leaders

In a speech to Silicon Valley leaders Friday, President Clinton reflected on the development of the Internet during his presidency and challenged the computer industry to help create "a society that is most successful and genuinely egalitarian."

Addressing the Aspen Institute's Forum on Communications and Society in San Jose, California, Clinton addressed the role the Internet has had in the nation's economic growth. He also discussed what the government's role on the Internet should be and the importance of security and privacy on the World Wide Web.

"There is no question that one of the primary reasons this has been the longest expansion in history is because of the explosion of information technology," the President said.

According to the White House, information technology and Internet businesses account for one-third of U.S. economic growth, paying workers almost 80 percent more than the private sector average.

"We now know that we have a new and different economy. We now are figuring out a how to measure it and b to assess where tomorrow's growth will come from," Clinton said. "It's also important that we assess precisely what the role of government should and should not be."

The president made specific reference to the debate over whether the Internet should be taxed.

"I think that our guidepost ought to be that we should have a government that tries its best to establish conditions and then give individual Americans the tools to make the most" of economic opportunity, Clinton argued.

Reviewing his accomplishments in technology policy, the president twice mentioned Vice President Al Gore, who is a candidate to succeed Clinton in the White House.

Clinton called the 1996 Telecommunications reform act, which Gore helped craft, "a reform that was going to ward competition."

The president also mentioned Gore when he trumpeted the success of "e-rate," a policy of the Federal Communications Commission that allows schools to buy Internet access at reduced rates. While only 3 percent of school classrooms were connected in 1994, 63 percent were in 1999.

Crucial to the continued expansion of beneficial information technology, Clinton said, are improvements in Internet security and privacy and "closing the digital divide."

He told the audience, "I think business must work with us to make that we close the fault line between those who have access to the computer and the Internet and those who do not."

The president, in addition to proposing a $3 billion increase to long-term high-tech research and development funding, has developed a set of incentives for companies to create more hi-tech opportunities for Americans, including:

  • $2 billion over 10 years in tax incentives to encourage private sector computer donations
  • $150 million for teacher training and
  • $100 million to create 1,000 Community Technology Centers

"We know we have to eep cyberspace open and freebut we also know that cyberspace must be a community of shared responsibilities and common values,"Clitnon said.

The president pointed to government efforts to secure computer systems in the wake of hack attacks on major sites last month. These included a government-industry partnership, a request for $2 billion for Internet security and a survey of government sites "to determine our vulnerability to denial of service attacks and to make sure federal computers can't be used to attack others."

Clinton urged industry leaders to take the issue of Internet privacy seriously.

"People are worried about this. This is a big deal to people," Clinton said. "They are afraid they'll have no place to hide."

Earlier Friday, the president issued an Executive Memorandum directing agencies to protect against "denial of service" attacks which in February paralyzed prominent Web sites, including and The president's speech comes on the heels of new developments in the federal investigation of last month's hack attacks.

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