Silicon Valley has started to express its concern and (you could say) disbelief at president Donald Trump’s new travel restrictions.
The restrictions in themselves are actually milder than those he threatened during the election campaign. Regardless of what may have been visible on certain news sites and petitions, he has not banned Muslims, he has suspended entry to the US from seven countries for 90 days while he works out a more permanent policy. (No Americans have apparently been killed by citizens of these seven countries but that’s a discussion for outside a technology publication like this one – we’d urge readers to research it, though).
However, Silicon Valley has not reacted well to the move.
Google moves first in Silicon Valley response
Google has been the first company to do anything solid in response to Trump; by the end of Sunday it had recalled 100 employees, fearful of the impact of restricted movement on its staff. It also set up a $2m “Crisis Fund”.
Others have been vocal but not as specific in their responses – or if they have been, they haven’t made their moves public.
So if the move isn’t permanent, what damage can be done in the long term?
Dependency on immigration
The obvious example of an immigrant doing something positive for the tech industry, as the BBC and others have pointed out, is the late Apple founder, Steve Jobs. Born to Syrian parents and adopted by Americans, it is fair to say that the technology industry would look very different if he hadn’t played his part (even his critics must surely give him credit for pushing computing into people’s pockets and marrying design with technology to create desirable objects – pick your own fights about whether this is a benefit or not).
Elsewhere the number of seniors and chief executives of non-American origin in American companies is striking. Add the amount of IT contracts put out to tender in other countries, which doesn’t involve immigration but which demands good trading relations between different territories, and the interconnectedness of the tech industry as it currently exists becomes obvious.
None of this means things can’t change. It does mean that things might be different and an idea of the direction of travel would be a help so that people can assess it dispassionately.
Change management will be key
And this is where one of the more worrying elements crops up. Whatever your view of the actual measure put in place by Trump, however you view his motivation, “well-managed” is not a description you can readily apply to it. The scenes of chaos over the weekend, the apparent unwillingness to share the plan with people charged to implement it and Trump’s claim that things were going very well when they clearly weren’t, suggests that if radical change is on the way, the current administration may not be the best team to explain and facilitate the process.
IT professionals are familiar with the notion of change management as application of their wares and services often involves substantial alteration of existing structures. Whatever you think of Trump’s will for a change, his ability to select the team to put this change in place smoothly has to be open to question.