We are All in “Tech” Now – and We Better Work Together to Seize the Moment

Photo by: graphic stockPhoto by: graphic stock

By: Casey Stanley, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development, Ontario Systems—

Muncie, IN—Every business is in tech now. But you likely know that.

The technology that powers your business has become just as essential to success as the product or service you provide. Every sector – from finance to agriculture to transportation to healthcare to government to media – is subject to this truth.

Another truth is that as the United States experiences this economic revolution, there will be winners and losers. We can either remain “the” (or at least “a”) global leader or fall short. Our action or inaction will have consequences.

Will we urgently harness the vision and capability of our human and financial capital to transform our economy and workforce? Or will we lag behind others – like the EU – who have already gotten the jump on us (more on that later) and forfeit decades of growth?

These questions – and many more – were discussed at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s recent stop in Indianapolis. The Chamber Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC) selected Indianapolis as the first stop on its Tec Nation tour, bringing together major firms with shared interest in data privacy, skilled labor, and unlocking potential in rural America. The campaign is led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and cuts across sectors and works to aggressively advocate on behalf of technology firms and address emerging tech issues on the horizon.

Why did C_TEC stop in Indy? Well, Indiana has been growing its tech footprint and talent at an impressive rate. Salesforce’s largest presence outside of the Bay Area is here, and Infosys is on track to hire 3,000 people in the next several years. Its tech ecosystem is vibrant and evolving. It was recently ranked #2 by Inc. in the 6 best cities to start a business, and #10 in the best cities for women in tech in 2018 by Smart Asset. I was humbled to be at this event representing Ontario Systems and in the company of Indiana’s Governor, Eric Holcomb, as well as other government leaders and representatives from several major Indiana tech powerhouses.

One thing became clear to the leaders in the room – B2B tech engagement needs a push. What we see so far (take the issue of data privacy, for instance) is a federal policy system that is stuck in the mud. While its intentions are good, the U.S. struggles to research, debate, and pass sensible pro-business policy that encourages innovation and growth. As a result, you get things like the California Consumer Privacy Act, a rushed set of rules likely to do more harm than good. Imagine if each state were to try to go on their own. A patchwork of conflicting and confusing regulations, making it difficult for businesses to serve consumers and stay ahead. We need leadership at the federal level.

If you’re looking to be part of a solution, involvement in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and C_TEC is a great place to start. I’m gratified that Ontario Systems has been engaged on many levels, including at the state and federal level, to give a voice to the companies most impacted by policy change. Our very own Chief Compliance Officer, Rozanne Andersen, has engaged in substantial policy work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), helping the Bureau understand our industries, technology, and obstacles to growing the economy.

Together we can collaborate, be creative, and get involved on key issues. C_TEC’s data privacy working group, of which I am a member, just made some significant progress on model legislation to address data privacy in America in a comprehensive way – but that’s just the beginning. We can use Europe’s cross-functional and collaborative approach to the successful adoption of data privacy standards (GDPR) to inspire our own thinking. We can continue work on influencing policies that create a win-win for our businesses and our consumers without placing undue burden on the very companies that will continue to push our economy forward.

This call to action is not for just what we think of as traditional tech companies, as technology and automation are impacting all industries and sectors – from agriculture to healthcare – we are all becoming “tech” organizations. With GDPR, the EU spent four years preparing and debating. The process brought a variety of stakeholder-types under the tent. California’s recent adoption of CCPA was hasty, and with last week’s announcement in Texas (two data privacy Bills were introduced) we are already reactively sorting through the impact of disjointed decision-making. There’s a lot at stake for American businesses and every one of us has a vested interest in making sure we are not simply prepared for – but proactively involved with – addressing major overhauls to our data privacy in the U.S.

For more on the U.S. Chamber’s C_TEC, visit  www.americaninnovators.com.