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Trump on technology: Are we overstating the impact of politicians on business?

There’s an oft-quoted saying in technology that states 90 per cent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. I have no real idea whether that’s actually true or not, but I can say that since Donald Trump’s victory in the recent US election, there surely must have been another surge in the sheer volume of content and data out there on that one topic alone.

I have seen countless articles detailing what impact Trump’s presidency will have on technology, business, relations with the UK, relations with the EU and much, much more besides.

While I am in no way a Trump apologist and I find it curious how someone who so openly offends so many different sections of society managed to win an election; the fact is that we do not know what his presidency will look like and we certainly don’t know what the impact will be on technology and business.

Can we separate business and politics?

As the CEO of a UK technology firm that has just opened its first office in the United States, I’m actually trying to remain positive and it’s important to at least try and consider the business implications separately from Trump’s politics. I think the implications of Trump’s victory for world peace, the Middle East and equality in America are potentially huge, but I honestly can’t see the impact on UK technology and business being that significant.

Although the economy and business are both invariably topics on which many politicians like to hold forth, I often wonder what tangible and day-to-day influence on business politicians actually have. It’s something that everyone gets excited about and makes a lot of noise, but really it makes little difference.

For example, the banking crisis of 2008 was tough for consumers and businesses all over the world. It took a number of strong businesses several years to come through the worst of it, and many more didn’t make it at all. I would argue that those conditions were far more impactful on a business’ prospects than a right wing US president could ever be.

Of course, there is an argument that such financial crises were created by certain long-term decisions that politicians made and there is some truth in that. But the general policy changes that occur when a new regime wins an election, rarely hold too much influence. A good well-run business is a good well-run business, and I am a believer in standing or falling on the strength of a company’s products or services, and how well it is managed and run.

The Trump take on business

Furthermore, considering that business is the one area in which Trump could be said to have experience and expertise, he was curiously quiet on his plans during the election campaign. He has been similarly reticent on matters to do with technology. But that certainly doesn’t mean that the technology industry has welcomed him with open arms.

Barack Obama was probably the most tech-focused president we have seen, committing billions of dollars to encourage tech innovation, improve education and encourage discovery. He also delivered an impassioned speech at this year’s SXSW, encouraging tech startups to address the biggest issues of society, applying their skills to help upgrade a number of legacy systems.

It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump delivering such a speech and it’s true that many tech luminaries in the US have not been overly supportive of him. In July this year, 150 tech leaders, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Vint Cerf, wrote an open letter, calling a Trump presidency ‘a disaster for innovation’. I believe this antipathy is based more on his opinions on other topics – immigration, race and religion – than any specific policies that relate to technology. His campaign wasn’t won on technology or business, nor did he even address those topics in any great detail, so perhaps we should keep an open mind on what will take palce.

One can only hope that much of the campaigning rhetoric was just that, and that when in the White House Trump will be toned down a good few notches on the dial, and be surrounded by smart capable people that understand business and technology and their place in the wider world.

Much of what Trump has come out with over the past 12 months has been worrying at best, deeply offensive at worst. But in terms of technology and business, we know not what he will do, nor how good he will be at it. Let’s see what happens before we press the panic button.

Alister Esam, CEO, eShare

Image Credit: Flickr / Matt Johnson

Alister Esam
Alister Esam, CEO, eShare - established in 2004, eShare's online board portal BoardPacks is used by hundreds of organisations over the world to improve corporate governance and make meetings smarter.