U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews today delivered the keynote address at “20 Years of Excitement, Innovation, Growth & Jobs,” a briefing hosted by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) as the trade association celebrates its 20th anniversary. During the event, co-hosted by the Congressional Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology (E-TECH Caucus), Deputy Secretary Andrews discussed Commerce Department efforts to make American businesses and entrepreneurs more competitive by giving them the tools to succeed, including supporting job-training initiatives, unleashing more of our data and strengthening innovation.
Remarks As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Mike, for the kind introduction. As Mike mentioned, he used to be the head of Commerce's crown jewel NTIA back in the day. It’s always great to see an ex-Commerce staffer making good.
I also want to thank ESA for the invitation to speak today and congratulate you on reaching your 20thanniversary. For two decades, ESA has led the charge to create new jobs and spur innovation in the entertainment software industry, and we value our strong working relationship with you.
Virtually every American can identify with your products – because video games have become such a big part of American culture. I remember my first time playing Pong in my family’s living room and how obsessed I was with my Atari. And as the father of two young daughters, I’ve seen firsthand the way video games have changed our society and the way our kids experience the world.
Whether it’s an educational game that makes learning fun and accessible, or a Wii dance game that helps my family get moving – it’s clear to me that video games have become so much more than just entertainment.
The truth is, some of the most cutting edge technology and innovation taking place in our country today is happening in the entertainment software industry. And these developments go way beyond making games more entertaining and visually compelling, although that is certainly the case as well.
The work done by this industry is helping to revolutionize the way we teach our children and train our workers – and it is energizing our economy in the process. Indeed, the United States entertainment software industry has enjoyed enormous success over the last decade, and the jobs it supports are now a crucial part of our country’s economic growth.
One of the biggest reasons for the rise of the entertainment software industry has no doubt been its commitment to training and maintaining a skilled workforce.
It is clear to me that this industry understands that skills training is key to a strong economy, that a well-prepared workforce is essential to long-term success, and that investing in your workers is an investment in your business’ growth and future. I know that there are many other industries in our country that would benefit from emulating your models for developing such a skilled workforce.
At the Department of Commerce, we have made skills a top priority for the first time. Working in partnership with the White House and the Department of Labor, we are committed to advancing job-driven training initiatives and scaling up successful models like yours.
We are also committed to fixing our broken immigration system – which has limited the high-tech community’s access to top talent for far too long. Although the President’s actions last month were a positive step forward, they are no substitute for Congressional action. The video game and other high-tech industries must have access to the best talent in order to keep the U.S. globally competitive. And I promise you today that Secretary Pritzker and I will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform.
We believe that the federal government has the responsibility to make sure entrepreneurs and innovators are provided the tools necessary to turn a great idea into a great business – and a skilled workforce is just part of the equation. That’s why the Department of Commerce is working to put more tools in the hands of entrepreneurs and American businesses than ever before. We are constantly modifying our set of tools to adapt to the speed of business, and providing resources at each step of the business lifecycle.
From the minute a groundbreaking idea gets sketched on the back of cocktail napkin, to when a company goes public, our Department is there to help that business succeed. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office empowers inventors to protect their intellectual property rights faster than ever before. The Economic Development Administration helps businesses and communities build the infrastructure they need for innovation to occur at a regional scale. Through Census and NOAA, we disseminate terabytes of data that spawn new businesses and allow for better decision-making in existing businesses. The National Institute of Standards and Technology produces the standards that make sure new products are commercially competitive. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership, National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, and the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership helps businesses prototype and scale their products. To ensure that businesses can compete in the global marketplace, the revamped National Export Initiative helps companies sell their products and services to the world. And, if your business is online, we protect a free, open, and safe Internet and help to increase access to broadband.
Cybersecurity is a huge issue, and the Department of Commerce is working to strengthen cybersecurity on a number of fronts. The NIST Cyber Framework is just one great example of the work we’re doing. This framework was developed for critical infrastructure, but it can be used by any organization seeking to manage cybersecurity risks.
Part of our mission at the Department of Commerce is collaboration, and we are focused on developing public-private partnerships to further our shared goals. For proof of the value of these partnerships, look no further than the Louisiana Digital Media Center in Baton Rouge. This technology hub houses Electronic Arts’ commercial video game operations, along with LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology – and it wouldn’t be here today without help from all levels of government. This facility was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration in conjunction with funding from the State of Louisiana – and it’s already been a huge boon to the region. EA expects to employ anywhere from 400 to 600 workers there in the coming years.
The video game industry is using government resources for so much more than just funding. Technology industries are using government data in ways that no one ever considered. When NASA released a detailed topographical model of the Earth’s surface 5 years ago, I doubt anyone who worked on the project ever thought that their work would one day help create levels for a snowboarding game. But thanks to their data, you can now snowboard down a realistic version of Mt. Everest in the game SSX.
Data are the fuel that powers the 21st century economy. From the Census Bureau’s economic and demographic statistics to NOAA’s weather and climate information - government data touches every American and informs business decisions every single day.
As Secretary Pritzker likes to say - the Department of Commerce truly is “America’s Data Agency.” No other department can rival the reach, depth, and breadth of our data programs, and we have made it a strategic priority to work with industry – including the entertainment software industry – to unleash the power of our data. NOAA already releases 2 terabytes daily of weather and climate data, powering a multibillion dollar weather industry. If the video game industry can take topographical models and turn them into a snowboarder’s paradise, then imagine what it can do with an additional 17 terabytes of data opportunities waiting to be tapped.
To reach our goals, we are hiring our first ever Chief Data Officer – and our new deputy Chief Data Officer started last month. The Commerce Department is ready to utilize our data to strengthen America’s future – but we need the help of our industry partners, like some of the people here in this room today. Together, we can bring the best of the public and private sectors together to lead the next great era of data innovation.
I want to close by saying this: with success comes responsibility. As video games have moved beyond mere entertainment, the opportunities for this industry are unbelievable. Your products have power, as clearly demonstrated by watching my 8 year old daughter do First in Math – and it is your responsibility to find a balance between entertainment and practical application, and between making games that sell and move our economy and are beneficial for our children.
The games you are creating provide practical solutions to 21st Century problems – whether through games designed to help our veterans overcome PTSD and other wartime trauma, or through the work of companies like GlassLabs, whose CEO Jessica Lindl is here today. Secretary Pritzker visited GlassLabs earlier this year and played their SimCity game, which teaches middle-school children how to design sustainable communities.
Clearly, this industry has come a long way since I first played football on a Texas Instruments Computer with a cassette recorder rather than a hard drive. The entertainment software industry is quickly becoming one of our country’s signature industries, and the government has a responsibility to help it grow, and – in turn – inspire other industries and drive our economy.
From the days of playing Pong in my living room as a child to the recent astronomical success of games like FIFA Soccer, the entertainment software industry has shown its capacity for growth is limitless – and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.