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10:40 AM
Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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Battle for Brains

If you ever start to question the importance of your job, just consider these facts: Information technology added $2 trillion to the U.S. economy -- accounting for nearly all of the pickup in economic growth over the past decade, according to a report from the Washington, D.C.-based Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). Although many nations have benefited from the "IT revolution," as ITIF calls it, the productivity benefits have been the highest in the U.S., the study found. For this reason, "Policies to support digital transformation need to become the fourth leg of economic policy alongside fiscal, monetary and investment policy," said Robert D. Atkinson, Ph.D., ITIF's president, in a statement. ITIF has several recommendations to ensure that this kind of growth and performance continues, including encouraging universal digital literacy and digital technology adoption.This isn't much different, of course, from the mantra insurance executives have been chanting for years. But if technology is so important to the nation's economic well-being, why isn't our country doing more to develop the IT professionals of tomorrow? According to Tapping America's Potential (TAP), a consortium of 16 U.S. business and technology associations, by 2010, 90 percent of the world's engineers will live in Asia. In an effort to rouse not just the U.S. government but also the business and academic communities to action, earlier this month TAP and more than 270 business and higher education leaders -- including IBM, Harvard University, the Society of Women Engineers and Google -- unveiled "The American Innovation Proclamation" (Prudential Financial's chairman/CEO Arthur F. Ryan was one of the named signers), which calls on Congress to help double the number of U.S. graduates in math, science and technology by 2015 through a number of initiatives. These include increased funding of programs and incentives for science and math teacher recruitment and professional development; a permanent, strengthened R&D Tax Credit to encourage continued private-sector innovation investment; and reform of U.S. visa policies to make it easier for U.S. companies to hire foreign IT professionals, particularly those holding advanced science, technology, engineering or mathematics degrees.The challenge will be to make the Proclamation more than an "issue du jour" or snazzy photo op -- not just for Congress, but for the businesses, including financial services firms, whose survival depends on our national intellectual capital.

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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