U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claimed at a Democratic National Convention Platform Hearing that the vast majority of smartphone technology was “invented” by the federal government. Her argument was for more more research and development spending in the federal budget.
Pelosi explained, “Anybody here have a smartphone? In this smartphone, almost everything came from federal investments and research. GPS, created by the military, flatscreens, LLD [sic], digital camera, wireless data compression, research into metal alloys for strength and lightweight, voice recognition — the list goes on and on…. They say Steve Jobs did a good idea designing it and putting it together. Federal research invented it.”
A spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi emailed the following statement:
The late Steve Jobs and the team at Apple that made the iPhone would be the first to tell you that they didn’t invent many of its core technologies we now take for granted. Leader Pelosi counted Steve Jobs as friend and meant no disrespect to his legacy, but the point she was making is a valid one. Leader Pelosi believes that Steve Jobs and his colleagues at Apple, deserve enormous credit for taking federally-backed innovations off the shelf, refining them, commercializing them and turning them into a beautiful device that changed the world.
While federal funding contributes to research, it is not the end-all for invention and innovation. The process of making a smartphone starts at the drawing board. The concept is put into sketches considering various design elements, features and interface options. Prototypes are created, and the phone is manufactured and assembled. Not to mention the countless silicon and software inventions under its hood like its processors, memory and operating system.
Is the federal government involved in this process? Perhaps in some cases to a certain extent. It is undeniable however that companies such as Apple, Google, Samsung, etc. have invented and innovated smartphone technology. Pelosi may perhaps need to fact-check her speech next time before making such broad, sweeping statements.
Editorial update, 6/12/16 - 1:50PM