¨Candidates Microtarget Voters¨ – that is the title of an eWeek (March 17th 2008) article that reports that the main Democratic candidates have turned to technology for predictive analysis of voter trends. In short, microtargeting helps the candidates focus their campaigns on voter segments that matter and on the issues that are important to those voter segments – even down to small groups of voters!! I find that an interesting way to leverage IT – in effect using IT to guide campaign strategy because if you ask me, this is IT helping to both identify a political (..it could also be a business) problem and the key issues that relate to it´s solution or as the article puts it, ¨a way to help campaigns target their [scarce] funds towards the right voters ¨. Though a great leap ahead in how IT is being used creatively by politicians, it is not the first and I certainly don´t think we have seen the limit of it.
This US election is perhaps the most tech-savvy election anywhere in the world … the term Election 2.0 (part of the xxxx 2.0 family of buzzwords like Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 etc) is used regularly by election reporters and campaign analysts. Senator Barrack Obama is reported to have a huge followership on MySpace and one that is reported to be the reason for his huge popularity with the younger generation – these people help recruit other followers online using social networks – sounds like Wikinomics in politics to me!. Then again go to the popular Youtube and type in ¨Obama¨ and you could practically create a TV channel of the campaign.
If politicians can use IT in such creative ways, I can only see a bright future for IT. First it is a vote of confidence to what IT is capable of doing when the right people are in charge of it. Here we are for the first time a leading presidential candidate in the US as part of his campaign goes to one of the world´s leading tech firms (Google) and publicly pledges to appoint the nation´s first government CTO, and also specifically address a key IT concern (web neutrality) – ¨…on the issue of net neutrality, I will take a backseat to no one¨ – were Obama´s words.
It is also revealing that Google was chosen to represent the IT world, apart from being an English verb ( ..yes it is correct English to say ¨I will google that later¨) it has a slew of applications that increasingly encourage web collaboration and democratizes the dataverse. More important to me is the culture of the company ….one that is appealing to lots of young people. The main thing is your contribution – how you give it is not much of an issue – you want to play games and swim during ´working hours´? fine with Google – they´d provide the game console and the swimming pool and there is no dictatorial HR department insisting you look ´corporate´ (a euphemism for ¨look boring and bureaucratic¨. And what is the reward to such a company? Loyalty!! … people are willing to spend more time on the job to get results and by taking work into non-traditional settings like a poolside or mini-bar their creativity and productivity increase.
I see a future in which one day, a tech-savvy president – what I call a ¨wired-president¨ or President 2.0 (hey can I put a copyright on that? I am sure I am the first person to use the word will leverage the power of the masses in ways unforeseen – say to push back some selfish lawmakers? Imagine this scenario: It is 2010 and the US senate is moving a motion for the US to attack Iran even though public and international opinion is clearly against it. President Barrack Obama who is also against it launches an online survey in which 90% of all adult Americans say their bit – NO!! and send a clear message to the lawmakers — ¨ … we don´t agree with you on this one¨. I believe the technical infrastructure to make that possible is available …. all it needs is a visionary leader willing to use IT as the ultimate tool of mass democracy (true and pure democracy). I must say kudos to Barack Obama for being this visionary (he ´gets´ it) and also kudos to Hillary Clinton for not being ashamed to follow Obama´s lead – hey, I think both of u would make a great political pair – just keep Bill safely occupied with enough humanitarian and consulting deals!!!!