THE BLOG

Presidential Tech Policies: Embrace The People Versus Ignore Them

We see that millions of Americans are using the Internet to help each other out, and to improve the way government works. The Obama technology plan encourages civic engagement and openness. Unfortunately, the McCain plan adopts the Bush/Cheney approach, which promotes privileges for big companies at the expense of democracy.

My day job is customer service though my background is in computer systems; here I focus on what I practice every day. The use of the Internet to preserve and enhance our democracy is of historic importance. Two related issues are enhancing the transparency of government, and equal treatment for all on the Net.

(Considering the quality of my writing, well, I realize i should keep my day job. But David Weinberger, one of the most astute observers of Net trends, talks about the McCain/Bush/Cheney plan here. I wish I could write like that.)

I take this personally; I'm helping a lot of groups online, like teachers via DonorsChoose.org, and like Iraq and Afghanistan veterans via iava.org. This approach has the following perspectives:

-- the Internet gives everyone a potentially equal voice, as long as no special privileges are extended to anyone

-- listening to the voice of Americans via the Internet is the best way for a President to stay in touch with the country

-- the Internet is the best way to show Americans what's happening in Washington by publishing how government works, good and bad, like how big money works to influence lawmaking. That is, government operations should normally be "transparent"

-- the Internet should be a level playing field for everyone; no more special privileges for the already privileged. Telecom companies make huge profits using public resources, and we should expect that they treat everyone equally. No real regulation is needed to keep the Net neutral, just a few guidelines to preserve the level playing field.

Specifically, Obama proposes that government operations be made visible online. The McCain/Bush/Cheney team has consistently opposed such transparency, understandable, since it raises a lot of awkward questions about the lobbyists running their campaigns and about their honesty. For example, here's a description of how the McCain tech policy contains many inaccuracies regarding his history.

Bush and McCain staffs devote a lot of resources to keeping their guys in a bubble, keeping them way out of touch, limiting access-- to journalists but to non-journalists as well . (I've seen this face-to-face with McCain, regarding his opposition to supporting the troops.) Major usage of the Internet could make that a lot more difficult to keep a guy out of touch.

From McCain/Bush/Cheney perspective, it's important to keep Internet access away from as much of the American people as possible. If we all get that access, it might provide for a better working democracy, where Americans provide input on a continuous basis. However, McCain/Bush spokesman Dana Perino spoke eloquently regarding that, stating that the American people "provide input every four years" and that's all we get from them.

Both campaigns have now staked out positions on the democratizing value of the Internet and on American values. Obama embraces the Internet as a means of cleaning Washington up, but McCain/Bush sees it as a threat which might make them accountable.

What do you prefer?