What Does The Biden Administration Mean For Developers?

President-Elect Biden is in the process of forming the team that will help move his policies and initiatives forward for the next 4 years. 

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The incoming administration made it known early that their top priorities are COVID-19, Economic Recovery, Racial Equality, and Climate Change. We at Developers Alliance believe that means tech and developers will be front and center. The creation of tech jobs and economic recovery go hand in hand these days, and Biden’s transition team is packed with tons of familiar faces in the sector indicating we may have a strong four years ahead for the developer world. The jury is still out on how tech-friendly the administration will be, however, our early analysis leads us to believe that it will be one of the most tech-literate administrations thus far – which is a solid first step.

Biden’s incoming administration still hasn’t announced many top officials, but there’s a chance he may choose prominent republicans who endorsed his campaign in key roles — especially given that Senate Republicans may be uncooperative given that many still haven’t acknowledged Biden’s win. This unique bipartisan cabinet and approach will likely come in hand when drafting policies for the tech industry where each party has grievances, yet neither has perfect solutions.

The most notable Biden staff announcement thus far was his choice of tech startup investor and advisor Ron Klain as his chief of staff. Klain as Biden’s right-hand man shows tech knowledge will be vital to all aspects of this administration. As one of his colleagues put it, “[Klain’s] experience understanding what a small business goes through and what a tech company goes through is significant from a policy-making perspective.” While greatly knowledgeable on the sector, Klain has made prior statements indicating that he believes the tech industry needs some form of regulation given its significant impact on citizens. That being said, many believe that Klain will offer a thoughtful and informed approach to any reforms the administration endorses.

The expertise of administration officials and hopefuls does not mean that the administration would be letting Big Tech off easy from their ongoing scrutiny, however. This is most true with regards to how we expect antitrust matters to be dealt with in the incoming administration. Bipartisan concerns about tech and unfair competition practices remain. Thus a Biden administration would likely continue pursuing the ongoing lawsuits regarding the competition. Further, the Republican party has indicated that if they keep control of the senate they would continue pursuing antitrust hearings — which indicates an area where the parties may find some bipartisan support for legislation. A popular contender for a Biden administration Attorney General is a former presidential candidate and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is currently the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights. This move would suggest that the Biden administration intends to take competition matters seriously. 

A top contender for Biden’s Secretary of defense, Michèle Flournoy, recently co-authored a piece on how the Pentagon needs to accelerate their efforts on developing technologies to eclipse China, specifically AI. This indicates that the administration may prioritize tech advancements as they are seen as a matter of national security and defense. Further, this could indicate the discussion of AI within the US to be more prevalent in coming years — something we’re already seeing being echoed by ongoing legislative efforts in Europe.

On the education tech front, Biden promised new money for school infrastructure on the campaign trail, specifically with regards to helping schools accommodate teaching during the pandemic. He has promised that his Secretary of Education will be an educator – an administration highlight likely driven by the fact that the incoming First Lady is a college professor. This suggests that classrooms around the country may be getting a tech overhaul — a much-needed improvement that Developers Alliance has been pushing for a while.

The depth of knowledge in the technology sector of the many faces — announced and speculated — in the coming Biden administration bodes well for a strong 21st-century economy. Additional conjectures on tech impacts:

  • President-Elect Biden is expected to embrace the democrat party line view with regards to immigration. This means an embrace of both high and low-skill immigration, but a limit on H1-B visas. This is in contrast to the Trump Administration’s policies regarding H1-B visas, however, a Biden administration is likely to be warmer to the tech world in this respect.

  • The Administration has long promoted investment in climate-focused programs. This signals potential funding increases to R&D in the clean energy sector. Developers benefit from this both from their work programming and engineering for these initiatives as well as the impact clean energy has on tech industry sustainability as a whole.

  • The far-left wing of President-Elect Biden’s party has been extremely vocal about higher taxes on big tech. Biden’s plan focuses on higher tax brackets for the wealthy, as such, it is possible big tech may be caught in the crosshairs.

  • Like President Trump, President-Elect Biden has expressed his distaste for Section 230. Their ideas for reform however differ, largely given their vastly different views on what is wrong with the legislation. Section 230 reform is still a possibility, however, no tangible plans have yet to be ascertained, aside from calls for greater transparency, given the broad implications of the law.

  • There has been bipartisan support for a data privacy law, which has been supported by tech companies both big and small seeking government guidance. While a bill is probable during the Biden Administration, it is unlikely to be an urgent priority given the divided views on solutions. Legislators on both
    sides want to ensure that whatever law is passed is well thought out, works with industry, can be effectively enforced, and doesn’t further aggravate the ongoing competition issues.

While details of President-Elect Biden’s tech agenda and transition team are still in flux, it appears that the early moves of appointments and campaign promises bode well for developers. The incoming administration appears eager to work with the technology sector and developers rather than against them. Especially in regards to accomplishing the mutually beneficial goals of improving the economy, securing national defense, promoting an educated future workforce, and creating jobs.

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By Sarah Richard

Developers Alliance Policy Counsel & Head of US Policy

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