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Gates calls on Feds to plug tech investment gap

With more H-1Bs if neccessary

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Bill Gates has once again warned Washington that it must do more to fill the gap in US technology investment ahead of the "second digital decade".

The Microsoft chairman and co-founder also returned to familiar ground during a keynote address yesterday to some 1,000 members of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, talking about his vision of the future of computing.

Earlier this week Gates, in a testimony to Congress, called for Washington to relax its immigration and education policies for skilled foreign workers.

Yesterday’s breakfast speech was a more sedate affair, less about haranguing the gathered crowd and more about Gates returning to his oft-cited rhetoric about how the next ten years will mark a “second digital decade” that he reckons will be great for tech innovation.

Gates once again punted speech recognition and surface computing as two key technologies that will, over the coming years, see “rapid advance”.

However, after his address questions from the floor turned, perhaps inevitably, to the contentious immigration and education issues that he had raised on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Gates repeated his call for Congress to relax its immigration rules and grant more H-1B visas to skilled foreign workers who have studied at universities in the States, to allow them to stay on after graduation. Otherwise, he argued, the US tech industry could slip on global competitiveness.

The Microsoft boss added that Congress was making snap judgements in expecting immediate paybacks on education investments.

"Historically, the United States has done a great job of doing the right investments," Gates said, according to Associated Press. "Government policies going back decades have worked very well."

But he cautioned: "The payoff doesn't come immediately. I'm very concerned about those sort of trade-offs."

Microsoft chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie joined Gates on stage during the Q&A session with the council. He agreed that lawmakers’ decisions were too often “skewed to the short-term”. He said: “It’s important we have an informed policy decision.”

During the debate Gates also urged US communications regulators to free up more vacant TV airwaves to allow them to be used for broadband internet access; an idea opposed by broadcasters and makers of wireless microphones over concerns the devices could cause interference.

Microsoft and other tech vendors want the so-called “white space” spectrum between analogue broadcast channels to be used to expand access of wireless broadband service using Wi-Fi technology. ®

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