Washington — The White House on Monday urged technology CEOs to pitch in on President Donald Trump’s effort to modernize government.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, were among those attending an afternoon of working groups on issues like technology infrastructure, cybersecurity and visas for foreign workers.
The gathering was the first event for a technology-focused effort within the White House Office of American Innovation, which seeks to overhaul government functions using ideas from the business sector.
Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to Trump, welcomed the technology executives, calling them “a very impressive group of leaders from the private sector” being put to work “on some of the country’s biggest challenges that will make a very meaningful difference to a lot of its citizens.”
Also on hand was Trump’s daughter and Kushner’s wife, senior presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.
Kushner said that while he had been warned that government change could be slow, he has found “exactly the opposite” and praised the “talented civil servants” he is working with. He also cited some examples of the current technology infrastructure, noting the use of floppy discs in Pentagon “legacy systems.”
Some technology executives have clashed with Trump over his decision to exit the Paris climate accord. Leaders at Apple and Google were among the American corporate executives who appealed to the president to stay in the pact. Nearly 100 major technology companies—including Facebook, LinkedIn and Intel— also opposed in February the administration’s executive order banning travelers from six Muslim-majority countries.
But other companies have supported aspects of the Trump agenda. IBM was prominent last week during the White House’s push for apprenticeships. Intel unveiled plans at the Oval Office in February to invest more than $7 billion in an Arizona factory, a move that Trump portrayed as a win for U.S. workers.
Venture capitalist John Doerr, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, viewed the Monday gathering as part of a broader history of bipartisan efforts to use technology to modernize government and “improve the lives of all Americans,” a company spokeswoman said.
Chris Liddell, a White House aide who directs the technology effort, said the executives would participate in a series of working groups, concluding with a session with Trump.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration was focusing on technology this week. He said there was “a lot of room for optimization in the federal government.”
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