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Why U.S. Must Invest In Internet-Connected Infrastructure

A hybrid infrastructure that combines physical foundations such as roads, buildings and the power grid with the Internet and sensor networks will pay off for the U.S.
Building private, public or hybrid cloud infrastructure is no small task. The private sector, for example, is spending tens of billions of dollars on cloud computing; an April 2013 study by Neovise and Virtustream suggests that more than half of U.S. businesses rely on cloud-based information technology services. Likewise, the federal government and the air transportation industry are expected to invest as much as $50 billion by 2025 to make the NextGeneration Air Transport system fully operational. As the Business Roundtable study suggests, it will require business and government to cooperate on the development of a national strategy to make the best use of these investments. Such a strategy will need to unite stakeholders around the following key areas:

-- Collaborative investment, commitment and strategic decision-making. Because the national infrastructure is owned and operated by both the public and private sectors, overhaul and hybridization will require a true joint effort. This has already been done in the smart buildings arena, where the federal government is working with private-sector advanced building management technology providers to implement efficiencies in government buildings that will save taxpayers $15 million annually.

-- Policy reform. Global and domestic regulatory and policy frameworks need to be updated and streamlined to reflect significant changes in technology and eliminate overlapping jurisdictions and conflicting mandates. The issue here is that policymakers and regulators often view infrastructure as just physical infrastructure and may miss the bigger picture of the opportunity and benefits of hybrid technology. For instance, a national energy strategy could help speed acceptance of the smart grid, and global policies could allow data to flow with fewer regulatory restrictions among servers throughout the world.

-- Enlarged talent pool of individuals trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Businesses and policymakers need to implement programs to overcome the shortage of workers capable of developing, installing and managing hybrid infrastructures. America's business leaders support policies that will increase STEM graduates, including more qualified STEM teachers in grades K-12, more STEM training at the community college level and dual-enrollment programs in high school that lead to a STEM-related associate degree. At Cognizant, for instance, we work to inspire children to pursue STEM disciplines through our "Making the Future" initiative, which includes after-school, summer and mentoring programs, college scholarships, a "maker" exhibit at the New York Hall of Science and more.

-- Data privacy and security. Public policies need to support data privacy and security while also enabling competition and innovation. The public also needs to be educated on how privacy and security risks can be mitigated. For example, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has done important work to improve electronic authentication and identity management. In general, the business community supports voluntary, risk-based standards for privacy and security. The federal government, through NIST and other agencies, plays an important role in developing these standards and helping to keep them up to date as technology evolves.

Hybrid infrastructures offer benefits for nearly every U.S. industry, from healthcare, to education, to defense. By working together, business and government can unlock these benefits, enabling sustained economic growth, job creation and quality of life -- and maintain the U.S. leadership position on the global stage.