U.S. Technology in Danger of Falling Behind
America can no longer remain idle if it hopes to continue lead the world in science and technology.
That's according to the latest research from the American Electronic Association (AEA), based in Washington, D.C., which contends the U.S. is neglecting the factors that sparked the U.S. technology revolution, ultimately threatening the country's economic vitality and competitiveness in the global marketplace.
“Even if we were doing everything right, the U.S. still faces major new challenges from an intensely competitive world,” said William Archey, president and CEO of the AEA, in a statement.
“But we are not doing everything right, which exacerbates the challenges before us,” he continued.
Referring to a recently-release report, Archey added, “We analyze a number of competitiveness factors that, when taken in isolation, as they so often are, would not necessarily constitute a crisis. But the interrelationship – the cumulative effect of these trends – makes the more compelling argument that the status quo is unsustainable.”
The AEA found that other countries, including China and India, are catching up in critical areas, and have restructured their economies to benefit from the free market system they once resisted. These countries are also dramatically increasing the skill sets of their workforce, investing in R&D, and adopting advanced technologies, all to create wealth and spur economic growth, AEA said.
“The good news is that as more countries adopt free markets, they open their doors to U.S. products and services,” mentioned John Harker, chairman of AEA’s board of directors and chairman of InFocus Corp., in a statement.
“But, this also presents a challenge for the U.S. as these countries now aggressively compete against us – or soon will,” he added. “The United States can no longer take its technological dominance for granted.”
Further, the AEA analyzes how R&D funding supports innovation by investing in the technologies that advance society, increase productivity, and ultimately improve standards of living. The Internet, MRI scanning technology, Doppler radar and GPS -- to name a few -- were all born from U.S. federally sponsored research. While funding remains available, it has decreased from its peak in 1987 and has declined substantially as a percentage of the economy, the group explained.
The AEA also found that the American K-12 educational system is failing to provide the math and science skills necessary for kids to compete as knowledge workers in the 21st century. In an information economy, the majority of jobs -- not just those specifically in high tech -- require grounding in math and science. The U.S. higher education system is also not graduating enough engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians to support the growth of the U.S. high-tech industry.
At the same time, the AEA said, the U.S. has raised the bureaucratic barriers for high-skilled immigration. Foreign workers are indispensable to American science and engineering with one out of five U.S. scientists and engineers being foreign-born. These workers make significant contributions to the U.S. economy by creating intellectual property and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Yet, the number of skilled workers immigrating to the U.S. has declined by 27 percent between 2001 and 2003.
“While no country can totally control the forces governing world commerce, innovation, and competitiveness, it can improve its chances for success by being prepared. We need to better educate our domestic workforce, tap into the world workforce through immigration, and rebuild a system that supports innovation and technology adoption,” Archey concluded.