As a new American administration takes office during the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression, everyone is understandably fixated on the present emergency -- on what went wrong and how to fix it. There is a growing feeling of desperation, the idea that we must do something -- anything -- to get the world's economic juices flowing again.
Let me offer a different point of view: We shouldn't undertake projects simply for the sake of creating economic activity. Rather than just stimulate, we should transform.
Smarter infrastructure is by far our best path to creating new jobs and stimulating growth. We at IBM were asked to map this out by President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, and our research shows that a $30 billion stimulus investment in just three areas -- smart grids, health-care IT and broadband -- could yield almost one million new jobs within one year. That's possible because these kinds of infrastructure have significantly greater economic and societal multiplier effects than traditional infrastructure like bridges and highways.
I've been convinced for some time that this is the way to go, so I'm excited to see such a strategy being advocated in an influential paper. The fact of the matter is that there's going to be a stimulus package no matter what. So those of us who are skeptical of such governmental interference in the economy might as well spend our energy attempting to direct the resources in the best possible direction.