February 3, 2017

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Will The Travel Ban Hurt US Tech Conferences?

Recent worrying developments in US politics could have a significant impact on the country's standing in the tech industry.

The lightning-speed changes to immigration policy (and, yes, I did choose that phrase carefully) mean that a significant number of our peers are excluded from entering the country, and many more are afraid to leave in case they're not allowed back in.

Believable reports of all non-citizens facing stringent checks - e.g., of their social media accounts - when trying to enter the US mean that many more in our (mostly progressive and liberal) profession could face difficulties at passport control.

I've been seeing more and more tweets from people saying they won't be attending certain US tech events as a result of all this: either because they're worried they will be given a hard time getting there, or in solidarity with those who are banned.

So I ran a straw poll on Twitter, and the results suggest that - in fact - the majority of us feel the same way. 70% of the 160+ respondants said recent events had caused them to reconsider attending a tech event in the US.

We shall have to see how this plays out. But if this change of tone in immigration policy is going to be long-term, then I fear it could significantly damage the country's world-class reputation in the tech industry. To think that any nation can achieve technology - and therefore economic - success without international cooperation is sheer folly. But, as we've been seeing, the new administration is not immune to the odd bit of folly...

Posted 1 month, 4 days ago on February 3, 2017