Talk about disruptive. Against all odds, Donald Trump is now going to be president of the US. And the question on everyone’s lips (apart from perhaps “WTF?” and “How in the hell did he do that?”) is:
The telecoms/IT space is no different, and the all-purpose answer is in fact another question: who really knows for sure?
It’s a fair question, not least because Trump’s campaign has been long on angry tweets and short on actual details of just what Trump would do in office besides Build That Wall® and Make America Great Again™. And technology hasn’t exactly been a centerpiece of his campaign, apart from Hillary Clinton’s private email server and Trump’s invitation to hackers to crack into it and find her deleted emails. (Note: he say he was kidding.)
So what a Trump administration means for telecoms/IT is a lot of guesswork at this stage.
The immediate concerns appear centered around whether Trump will make good on his promise to stop the AT&T-Time Warner merger, followed by his plans (whatever they may be) for encryption and surveillance policies that could make the NSA look like it wasn’t really trying.
(Here is his official cybersecurity plank, if you’re curious. There’s not much there.)
Beyond that, another issue to watch is the FCC’s net neutrality policy, which Trump described in a tweet as follows:
Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2014
Which I think means he’s against it.
That’s not especially surprising, though – the Republican Party in general has a similar view on net neutrality. In fact, a general rule of thumb is that whatever Republicans think about things like internet surveillance, encryption, net neutrality and things like municipal broadband projects, Trump will probably toe the party line, if only by coincidence.
Then there’s Trump’s protectionist view on free trade, particularly in regards to exporting of jobs overseas. Trump has said he would force Apple to manufacture all of its products inside the US. It’s safe to assume that any such policy would apply to any US-based tech OEM. It might also apply to the components used to make tech products. It also likely means that if companies like Huawei and ZTE were hoping to have another go at the US market, they can pretty much forget it.
On the other hand, some pundits have speculated that a Trump admin could be a grand opportunity for Asia’s technology sector – in the sense that the US market will be so volatile and Trump’s policies so detrimental to tech innovation that international tech investors will take their dollars elsewhere. According to Tech In Asia, it could also prevent regional tech talent from migrating to the US, and potentially give regional companies less competition from US tech giants if, say, Trump were to go so far as to push for legislation ordering all US tech companies out of China and do all their domestic manufacturing locally.
(NOTE: Both of those linked articles were written months ago. Also, I have serious doubts that such legislation would pass, even with the GOP controlling both houses of Congress – many tech companies have deep pockets and lobbyists too, after all. Then again, I had serious doubts that Trump would actually become President, so what do I know?)
Overall, the only thing we can do for now is to watch this space with extreme interest until Trump is sworn in and his policies start taking form of some kind. It may not be as bad as people imagine. It may be far, far worse.
The only thing we can be sure of is that a Trump administration will disrupt the status quo at all levels. And it will do so globally, not just at home – not change you can believe in so much as change you can’t believe.