There is no more Sisyphean task than trying to make governments modernize their IT infrastructure. But, of course, there’s nothing that the Trump administration loves more than insisting ridiculously complicated tasks will be a snap with Trump’s business acumen. Or, in this case, Jared Kushner’s, as Kushner is taking on yet another job in modernizing the American government’s information technology.
Axios is reporting that Kushner will head the Trump administration’s American Technology Council, with the goal of bringing in high-profile Silicon Valley CEOs in early June to talk about how the government can get with the times. The council, however, won’t have much authority; its job is to collect ideas. Another, if unspoken, job is to try and improve the Trump administration’s image: Being tied to Trump has enraged Silicon Valley’s workforce and, among other things, kickstarted Uber’s disastrous 2017. If it can get skeptical tech CEOs in a room, it will probably help.
Kushner, however, might need far more than a few days of working sessions to crack this issue. Every President has had to tackle the challenges of modernizing government IT, but it’s a thorny problem. In 2013, the head of the Government Printing Office went in front of Congress to ask Congress to phase out floppy disks as a method of delivering information to the Federal Register. Because Congress sets the rules, and Congress hadn’t given the OK to flash drives and other modern technology at the time, sending the data on a flash drive would have meant government agencies were breaking the law.
In a broader sense, upgrading the government involves disentangling dozens of systems with millions of users who have conflicting legal requirements for data privacy, usage, and transmission, and every few years, the guy in charge of the operation shuffles out to be replaced with a new one, who often issues new and conflicting edicts. Is the problem unsolvable? Perhaps not, but in this endeavor, wish Kushner luck. He’ll need it.