RealTime IT News

Tech CEOs Unite in Offshoring Support

WASHINGTON -- The nation's top technology executives weighed in on politically sensitive issues Wednesday as part of a Business Software Alliance (BSA) CEO policy forum.

The executives presented a united front in supporting offshoring, stronger protection of intellectual property rights and the need for better cybersecurity, particularly in the area of government systems.

The forum was a public pit stop on a day of private political lobbying with key administration and congressional members for tech CEOs, including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, Adobe's Bruce Chizen, Borland's Dale Fuller, Symantec's John Thompson, McAfee's George Samenuk and RSA Security's Art Coviello.

Senators Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Hilary Clinton (D-N.Y.) joined the executives in a spacious Senate meeting room.

"Offshoring is a natural aspect of globalization but there seems to be some misunderstanding that software exemplifies a vulnerability in the U.S. economy," said Greg Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems. "The fact is that offshoring is just the opposite. Americans have the most to gain from globalization."

Added Bentley, "I would hate to see that jeopardized by protectionist measures."

Since January, technology jobs being sent overseas has turned into a politically volatile issue, with Democrats in particular blocking or delaying bills designed to promote free trade.

"Let us not get carried away with the idea that trade hurts American jobs. It's very important to our gross national product," Bennett said.

Borland's Fuller said a greater threat to the American software industry is other countries' attempts to slow the importation of U.S. software.

"There are now countries in the world that are setting up their own barriers to us, essentially saying their software has to be produced by their own [developers]," Fuller said. "We're seeing the same thing happening with countries that are using open source software."

Software piracy, of course, was a major source of comment from the BSA members.

Adobe's Chizen said total U.S. software losses to piracy amounted to $13 billion last year.

"The amount we're losing [to piracy] is more than the music and movie industries combined," he said. "The government is helping to the extent it can. What we need is more money for the Department of Justice for enforcement and we don't need to change any laws, especially the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)."

Ballmer was more circumspect on the piracy issue.

"The issue gets a little bit more insidious in the sense that there are important economies where the U.S. has a variety of different agendas of trade, etc., which are among the very worst for piracy," Ballmer said. "The government can do a lot and the government can certainly do more."

On the issue of cybersecurity, RSA Security's Art Coviello said he was "disappointed" with the efforts both the private and public sectors, while McAfee's Samenuk's said the government was not leading by example with its widely reported security problems.

Bill Connor, president and CEO of Entrust, summed up the security issue by saying, "It is an election year, you can't expect a lot."