Overview

IBM’s 2020 Public Policy and Legislative Issues

HIGHEST PRIORITY: TACKLING COVID-19

SUPERCOMPUTING POWER: In March of this year, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Energy launched an unprecedented effort to bring the power of supercomputing to fight COVID-19. With an initial capacity roughly equal to around 2 million laptops, the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium is helping researchers worldwide accelerate scientific discovery for treatments and a cure. The HPC Consortium is supported by six of America’s national labs, academic institutions such as MIT and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and other technology providers. IBM is proud to have convened this effort.  In parallel, IBM Summit, the world’s fastest supercomputer, has already helped researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee rapidly identify promising drug compounds that could aid the fight.

TRUSTED DATA AND INSIGHTS: IBM developed a precise “incident map” that provides trusted local information on COVID-19 cases and made it available via the IBM-owned Weather Channel app and weather.com. This resource allows citizens, state and local health authorities to visualize data on a county level — from confirmed cases and potential outbreak areas, to availability of tests. This data, available from government agencies up to the World Health Organization, is analyzed and refreshed every 15 minutes on the IBM Cloud — it is provided free and in English and Spanish.  IBM’s newly-launched Watson Assistant for Citizens “chatbots,” combine analytics, speech recognition and natural language processing to help government agencies and other organizations deal with unprecedented volumes of requests from citizens, and to quickly get them the critical information without long telephone hold times. These assistants have been deployed across the country and overseas – they provide health guidance from national agencies and local sources that includes links to school closings, regional health news, information on unemployment claims and documents.

“CALL FOR CODE” TO ENABLE FIRST RESPONDERS: IBM created “Call for Code” a program for independent developers to work COVID-19 issues. The program has brought more than 210,000 participants from 165 nations and created more than 8,000 applications focused on natural disaster preparedness and relief.  Today, IBM is marshalling resources for the “Call for Code Global Challenge” to focus on COVID-19, specifically improving communication for medical teams and emergency services, and improving remote learning for millions of students around the world. This will be built on open source software and powered by IBM Watson, with data from The Weather Company.

KEY POLICY ISSUES

INVEST IN MODERNIZED GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY: IBM supports significant funding of the Technology Modernization Fund for meaningful investment in federal IT modernization. Further, IBM supports Rep. Gerry Connolly ‘s (D-VA) commitment to increase TMF Funding.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress recognized the need to modernize federal IT, and in 2017 created the Technology Modernization Fund, TMF. The goal of TMF is to enable agencies to reimagine and transform their use of technology to deliver their mission and services to the American public in a more effective, efficient, and secure manner. To date, nine projects across six agencies have received funds from the $125M Congress has appropriated since 2018. The current national crisis highlights the need for additional IT investments to ensure federal agencies have modern technology capabilities and infrastructure that can scale to more effectively respond to this, and any future crisis — much of the government’s $90B annual technology spend goes towards operation and maintenance of legacy systems that have not kept pace with changing technology. To address these critical gaps, IBM recommends that any additional pandemic legislative relief package include TMF funding that can be quickly allocated to agencies with appropriate oversight for rapid adoption of emerging technologies that support critical modernization efforts, and help address numerous technology and related risks identified during the current response to COVID-19.

COMPETITIVE 5G MARKET BASED ON OPEN TECHNOLOGIES: IBM supports measures to promote the adoption of open standards and open source-driven architecture to power 5G infrastructure that is more cost effective, flexible, innovative, and secure. To that end, IBM supports S. 3189, the USA Telecommunications Act, especially the funding provision to accelerate the development and deployment of equipment that uses open standards to put the U.S. and international partners on a path to establish a competitive and open 5G marketplace. IBM also believes any national 5G strategy should have open technologies as its foundational tenet to promote economic growth, leverage U.S. industry’s strengths, and enhance security.

TRUSTWORTHY AI –PRECISION REGULATION: IBM supports a precision regulation approach to promote innovation and protect consumers by regulating AI based on use-cases and end users, rather than the underlying technology. We support policies that advance the five business imperatives that we have called for in our IBM Policy Lab piece – having an AI ethics official; different rules for different risks; don’t hide your AI, and test your AI. That is why we supported the National AI Initiative Act which directs NIST to develop an accountability framework to advance explainable fair and trustworthy AI.

CYBERSECURITY: Increased reliance on digital networks, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, underscores the need for a strong national cybersecurity posture.  IBM supports protecting the national digital infrastructure through policies that are robust, flexible and based on international standards.  Specifically, IBM supports: (1) precision regulation to address defined national security threats to the global digital supply chain, (2) policies that do not undermine industry standard protections, such as encryption, when addressing government access to data for law enforcement purposes, and (3) increased cybersecurity resources for state and local entities.

IMMIGRATION REFORM –DACA FIX: IBM has several dozen DACA employees who serve in technical, marketing, finance and sales roles across multiple states.  For this reason, we strongly support a yet-to-be-developed bi-partisan permanent legislative solution for DACA work-authorized individuals that would provide them with legal protections and a permanent means for remaining in the United States with the ability to work and live their lives openly.  An immediate legislative solution is the only way to provide necessary protections and certainty for our employees.

QUANTUM COMPUTING APPROPRIATIONS:IBM strongly supports the President’s FY21 budget request for funding of $237M for the National Quantum Initiative at the Department of Energy Office of Science and recommends an additional $100M for dedicated access to quantum computing systems. This additional initiative will support system access to industry, government, and academic research, as well as development and skill for workforce growth.

SECTION 230 REFORM: IBM believes that liability protections for online service providers should be conditioned on a showing of “reasonable care” in content moderation. With great power comes great responsibility, and a reasonable care standard would help ensure those companies most in a position to address these concerns are incentivized to limit illegal and illicit behavior online, while also being flexible enough to promote continued online innovation. We are supportive of legislation that would reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by conditioning liability protections on reasonable care in content moderation without unnecessarily impeding the development and deployment of encryption and other cybersecurity technologies.

DATA PRIVACY LEGISLATION: IBM strongly supports national legislation to protect consumers’ privacy. The fight against COVID-19 underscores the importance of preserving privacy while implementing innovative solutions using data. Legislation should: (i) provide consumers with basic rights, such as the right to know what personal data is collected, used, and shared, and the right to exert control over that data; (ii) place primary responsibility for protecting personal data and privacy on organizations that collect or handle that data; (iii) avoid overly prescriptive requirements that might impede development of emerging technologies, including privacy-enhancing ones; (iv) require businesses to protect consumers’ privacy by assessing and mitigating risk; and (v) enhance the enforcement authority of the Federal Trade Commission as the lead U.S. privacy supervisory agency. National privacy legislation must also prevent a patchwork of state privacy laws and create a uniform, national standard to protect the privacy of U.S. consumers. IBM urges Congress to advance strong, bipartisan privacy legislation this year.

HIGHER EDUCATION ACT: IBM urges Congress to advance bipartisan Higher Education Act (HEA) legislation that will better prepare more students to enter the workforce with skills needed for lifelong success. An updated HEA should include: (i) Assistance for shorter-term programs of study that students can use to obtain valuable certifications (i.e. workforce Pell);  (ii) Internships and other work experience in their area of study with private-sector employers through increased Federal Work Study funding and flexibility, (iii) Additional pathways to credentials such as apprenticeships, competency-based and distance learning, and collaborations between new providers of higher education and traditional colleges and universities, (iv) transfer of credit provisions to ensure that students can transfer credits earned between higher education institutions that are both funded and accredited under the HEA. Career-oriented provisions in this legislation will help students secure jobs in growth industries and close a persistent skills gap that has become severe in the information technology sector.

GLOBAL TAX POLICY: IBM supports expansion of the network of bilateral income tax treaties that reduce barriers to cross-border investment and eliminate double taxation. IBM supports global tax policy objectives that: 1) Drive and support global tax policies, practices and regulatory initiatives that support IBM’s business model, sustain our competitive tax position and planning flexibility. IBM complies with all relevant tax laws and regulations in the countries and localities in which it operates; 2) Support or oppose various proposals for U.S. and other country or regional (EU) corporate income tax and indirect tax systems to help sustain IBM’s global competitiveness; 3) Promote and protect R&D and innovation through related tax incentives such as R&D tax credits and intellectual property or patent boxes in key jurisdictions worldwide; and 4) Drive and influence negotiations for income tax treaties to reduce tax barriers to cross-border investment.

ADVANCING INNOVATION: IBM works with governments around the world to encourage policies that foster innovation, protect intellectual property, and encourage use of technology to address important societal needs. IBM is focused on: 1) Encouraging balanced cybersecurity policies that help secure government and private sector IT infrastructure, while maintaining global competitiveness; 2) Enabling collaboration between governments and industry in key technology areas such as high performance computing and nanotechnology; 3) Promoting reform of intellectual property laws to improve patent quality and reduce unproductive litigation; 4) Supporting initiatives that enhance digital privacy protections while imposing legal safeguards on government access to data; and 5) Educating governments about the benefits of cloud computing and data analytics as a means to improve government efficiency and citizen services.

SUPPORTING DIGITAL TRADE & CROSS-BORDER DATAFLOWS: As a globally integrated enterprise with operations in over 170 countries, and the majority of our revenue generated outside of the United States, IBM is a strong supporter of free trade. IBM promotes policies to open markets, ensure cross-brorder data flows and eliminate unnecessary regulations around the world for information technology products and services, ensuring that any organization can have access to the best-available tools at market-based prices. IBM also encourages partnerships between industry and governments to secure global supply chains against external threats, while ensuring the smooth flow of legitimate trade. We work with governments to educate them about the benefits of open markets and competition, including faster innovation, increased choice and lower prices, and we promote the use of international standards and industry best practices.

WORKFORCE POLICY: IBM believes that workers who use technological tools that enhance human capabilities have an advantage over others–thus, technological change should be embraced as workforce enablers. IBM succeeds by being able to employ and deploy the best and most suitable talent, regardless of where based, to wherever employees are needed by us and our clients. A flexible and highly skilled global workforce is a critical component of IBM’s success and workforce competitiveness. IBM responds to contemporary global workforce challenges and advance policies that: 1) Promote contemporary public policy for a global, adaptable workforce; 2) Pursue modern, flexible global immigration policies for our highly skilled workforce; 3) Improve the availability and relevant business skills of graduates and employees in order to meet our needs; 4) Attract government support for incumbent workforce training; 5) Create an enabling environment for persons with disabilities; and 6) Enable innovation and support company prerogatives in the context of global corporate social responsibility.

Download IBM 2020 Public Policy and Legislative Priorities.