Tag Archives: technology

Technology, Economic Growth and Open Government

One of the great things about living in Washington DC is that you often get the chance to hear or meet important people of our time. Tuesday November 18, 2008, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO talked at an event at the New America Foundation about what’s ahead on technology, economic growth and open government.


It was a pleasure for me to see the CEO of one of the icons of the tech industry. Eric Schmidt was passionate and knowledgeable, although he was not always structured in his way of presenting his points. However, I am still fascinated by the open source approach to technology and information which has been the driving force behind Google’s (and others’) success. And I share his fascination of the fact that lots of people have access to most of the information that is out there. And new technology (such as cell phones) will give even more people access to information – and more information will also be accessible in the coming years. What an opportunity for America –and for the rest of the world.


You can watch Eric Schmidt’s speech here.



Here’s a few of my notes and reflections from the meeting:


  • Communication in every ones hand is powerful. But we do not get it yet.
  • Openness: Anyone can play and that can drive the modern economy
  • That does not only apply to the tech industry, why not do the same with the energy sector?
  • Doesn’t matter how big you are, it is the service you offer that matter (remember the cartoon Nobody knows you are a dog)
  • Google products:
    • Flu Track (Check it, it is fascinating)
    • Book search
    • Future: a Google search can answer questions such as: what should I do this weekend?
  • Google’s Smart Energy Plan
    • Great initiative – for a company that praises innovation might come up with a new perspective.
    • I missed a point on who’s going to make the investment? And is the government the right decision-maker in this case? However, I am not sure the free market is either. Schmidt said we need balance between the market and the government. But how do we move on from here?
    • Not all the ideas are revolutionary such as adopting technologies and practices promoting energy efficiency for buildings, equipment, vehicles etc. But as long as it is not standard it does not matter. Just do it and give the citizens the incentives to invest in better solutions. (The Danish experience is that it works).
  • More public funding to education and research
  • Few political scandals this year
    • Because of “the policing of the internet” where everyone is tracking the truth
  • Better to have people with you than shot them out
  • Governments have not embraced the tools the citizens have such as blogs and YouTube.
  • Amazing that people are spending their free time when they get the chance to be involved.



Can FISA Guide Us to the Future of Web 2.0 politics?

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon by Robert Goodwin from Wired.com


Tonight the last class of Digital Campaigns will cover upcoming technologies and trends. For sure, technology will take politics on avenues that we cannot imagine. I am quite sure that guys we have followed in this semester (e.g. Cyros Krohn from RNC (interesting article in WashPost the other day), Netroots Nation, pdf08) have a vision of the next step. But something unforeseen—like YouTube did—can change it.  Right now, Obamania seems to write the Web 2.0 story of the 2008 election. Ruffini questions this in a well-written blogpost on Techpresident today.  It is all about fundraising and that does not fit all purposes at all times.


Control of social networking -?

For now I will leave the tech presentation to Garrett for tonight and allow myself to elaborate on loosing control of the political process because of social networking. The Dean Campaign 04 took social networking to a political “extreme”, and it is useful in insurgent campaigns, but in most cases we need a model capturing the strength of the Internet but retaining control of the political process. I stumbled into this question when I read the wrong chapters in Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope.


Please Get FISA Right

In this light, it has been really interesting to follow the group formatting and growth of President Obama – Please Get FISA Right on Obama’s SNS MyBarackObama. Talking about exponential growth, it had more than 14,000 members after a week. At the time, it was the biggest group but now it’s the fifth largest group. This group of Obama supporters used his campaign platform to organize against Obama’s support of the Congressional compromise on FISA.


It is not that surprising that it is happening. I mean this kind of conversation is the purpose of opening up a process allowing peer-to-peer production or collaboration. And in the old-world of politics, constituents have always tried to influence politicians to change policy. But it is NEW that a political campaign opens up, invite its peers to join and open platform, and then a group challenge the candidate from within.


Here is the potential for “a collective, public discussion” but we do obviously not have the norms for it yet. (Read Micha L. Sifry’s critical analysis of MyBarackObama as an organizing tool). For a few days, the blogosphere and others wondered how the Obama campaign would respond. Would Obama really listen?


According to Carlo Scannella, one of the organizers behind the group; “His response to the Get FISA Right group was a moment of validation; this became something real.”Obama’s response did not stop the group, and it is ridiculously easy to organize the grass root campaign online.


So what does it mean? Jeff Jarvis had an interesting point:


Now if a campaign is going to argue that it’s truly grassroots, what is it to do with a revolt or protest from within? I’ve argued since Howard Dean’s run in 2004 that campaigns aren’t or can’t really be bottom-up when it comes to policy. They are necessarily propagandistic: This is what the candidate says. Indeed, Dean’s supporters acted like white blood cells in his blog discussions quite effectively surrounding and strangling dissent and opponents in the bloodstream. That’s the way campaigns have to work if you’re going to decide what this guy stands for and whether to vote for him, right? It’s about the message, no?


And what does it mean for the future? It is great to see this kind of disagreement within a campaign. It is democracy – isn’t? And what we are seeing is that a group is organizing around an issue instead of around a party. As Garrett asked in class a while ago; How will Obama’s supporters influence a Obama White House?


We can only guess. Personally, I am excited and convinced that the possibilities and consequences are just as enormous as it was to send a man to the moon. (Sorry to end the semester with such a cliche).


McCain is Aware of the Internet

Last week at the Personal Democracy Forum 2008 (PdF 2008), Mark Soohoo, Deputy eCampaign Director for John McCain 2008, said in an exchange with Tracy Russo, former blogger for John Edwards: “McCain is Aware of the Internet”. The debate has also been fuelled in the blogosphere and tech milieu because McCain has tagged himself as computer illiterate. However, the debate raises the question; how much knowledge of technology and experience with social media does the incoming president need?

TechPresident posted on Monday June 30, 2008 a poll asking its users Does a Connected World Need a Connected POTUS? As of today 118 have voted in this way: 

·  Yes, a POTUS needs to have first-hand experience with the Internet in order to lead. 61%

·  No, not as long as a POTUS has a firm understanding of the Internet’s impact. 33%

·  No, a POTUS more important things to worry about than going online. 4%


I am debating with my self whether to vote YES or NO not as long as POTUS has a firm understanding of the Internet’s impact. For me, it has been necessary to have first-hand experience with the Internet in order to get a better understanding of its impact. On the other hand, I guess I could be twittering, networking on Facebook, and blogging and still not understand the impact of technology on society. It is helpful and intellectual stimulating to participate in discussions with professors, fellow students, and friends or reading books like Wikinomics, The Long Tail, the First Campaign, and the Revolution Will Not Be Televised in order to get a better understanding of the Internet’s impact. Therefore, it is positive to see that 94 percent of the votes have voted yes or no POTUS with firm understanding and not NO, a POTUS have more important things to worry about. (It would be interesting if the poll was representative for the whole population and not just readers of TechPresident).


In general, I have no problem that McCain is not using a PC or a MAC, cannot use a BlackBerry or Twitter. According to Garrett Graff´s lecture last semster and Joe Trippi in the Revolution Cannot be Televised, Howard Dean did not get the Internet. But I do care, if he does not understand that the world is much more connected today than it was just 30 years ago. The Long Tail illustrated how business is changing, personal relations is changing thanks to Facebook and MySpace. Even national security is changing because of the impact of the Internet.    

Policies on Technology
Obama has proposed to create a Chief technology officer at cabinet level to work on issues like infrastructure, transparency, and crisis communication. On his website, Obama demonstrates that he has an insight and a willingness to work on tech issues like:  

* Better filtering systems for parents
* Safeguard rights for privacy
* Open up government for citizens
* Online town meetings
* Employ blogs, wikis, and social networking to modernize agencies to modernize governmental decision making


McCain has not developed a separate tech policy as part of his presidential campaign. Maybe he has intregrated tech into each issue, I have to admit, I have not read all his issues descriptions in details – so it might be hidden somewhere down there! But I did find this, and, for instance, McCain has supported the Technology Innovation and Manufacturing Stimulation Act. To overcome the digital divide, McCain suggests:

“there’s lots of ways that you can encourage corporations who, in their own self-interest, would want to provide — would receive tax benefits, would receive credit, and many other ways for being involved in the schools and upgrading the quality of the equipment that they have, the quality of the students, and thereby providing a much-needed, well-trained work force.”

McCain is aware of the Internet, but asking corporate America in invest in tech infrastructure isn’t that the same as asking them to invest in highways?