In the first of his series which looks at the presidential hopefuls’ respective technology plans, Brian James Kirk looks at what Barack Obama is promising to the world of tech.
Technologicology & Net Neutrality: Obama Is Serious About Web 2.0
A few weeks back, I got super-stoked about the possibility of a technological debate at the National Constitution Center. Everyone in the science industry, their mother, and probably some dude from Wired signed the petition and it looked like a sure thing.
I imagined myself, press pass in hand, posing some of the most difficult questions to date for my fellow Philebrians to read. In what condition is the is the national state of Flash design? How do you plan to put an end to Silicon Valley gossip bloggers? How much cash would you really drop for a Kindle?
But yeah, I got all excited for nuthin’. For some reason, people are more interested in, like, all this stuff that isn’t important. Health care? The environment? What a bore. The kids want to know if you’ve ever done blow or ever downloaded a Seal song illegally. Or ever done blow and downloaded a Seal song illegally.
In preparation for Pennsylvania’s upcoming Democrat Primary, I’ll be spending this week and next week reviewing each candidate’s technology plan. Don’t you worry, McCain fans—he’s too damn old to even know what the Internet is. Since Barack Obama is the most wired person on EARTH right now (see social networking navigation icon on left), I’d lose half my twitter followers if I didn’t start with him.
His Summarized And Annotated Plan
Barack has a five point plan. It is in obsessively long-form (hey, the guy and I have something in common) and without any reasonable doubt, not written by him. But let’s break it down:
“Ensure the Full and Free Exchange of Information through an Open Internet and Diverse Media Outlets”
Obama is a supporter of Net Neutrality, and it is good to see this right up top in the hierarchy of his plan. Aside from that, he also plans to end media conglomeration to some degree, something the FCC kinda totally fucked up on the last few years.
His hope to protect children while protecting speech is a little sketchy. He lays down the plans for Public Media 2.0, which to be honest, I thought that was the big brother poster thing he had going on. Turns out its Obama’s plan to “create the Sesame Street of the Digital Age,” which basically means nothing except that he realizes that Sesame Street changed the future for children programming. He goes on to rattle about a few other impossibly possible things, like implementing a system that will prevent kids from sharing family information online. Uhm, how are they going to buy porn, Mr. Senator. Explain that one.
Lastly, while protecting our country from terrrorrrists, he promises to never use methods that infringe on citizens rights that aren’t lawful….blah blah blah…wiretapping… blah.
“Create a Transparent and Connected Democracy”
One of the most surprising things about Obama’s campaign is that he’s taking a completely different approach than President Bush. Oops, I meant one of the most COMPLETELY AMAZING THINGS about Obama’s campaign. His ideas to create a government that is net-tastic are great to hear, but a little AOL 2.5 in the “we’ve seen this idea crash and burn” department.
He’d like to have government documents posted in universal formats (Hurray, OpenOffice!), provide live feeds of public meetings, allow citizens to post comments about legislation on the White House website (first post!), and start using that gosh-darned Wiki technology. After you get over your excitement, you kinda realize he’s just throwing around buzzwords. When he drops the bomb that he wants to use blogs to “modernize internal, cross-agency, and public communication,” two words come to mind: bad idea.
Obama also plans to institute a Chief Technology Officer, which basically gives a face to the anonymous nerdom spread across the country. Young web entrepreneurs (i.e. Digg users) will now strive to be CTO instead of CEO. Instead of aiming to crack down on piracy and crime like technology czars in the past, the CTO will actually strive to progress with technologies, apparently. We’ll see how that turns out. If Obama is really smart, he’ll hire Kevin Mitnick of hackers past.
“Deploy a Modern Communications Infrastructure”
Obama wants to redefine “broadband” and I can only assume at this point that it’ll be renamed to something like Hyperspeed-SuperTubes. He ensures us that he plans to re-imagine the wireless spectrum, which puts him right up there with Google‘s wildest dreams, er, initiatives. The plan is a little broad in its language, and somehow saying that Internet infrastructure can “reduce the costs of health care, help solve our energy crisis, create new jobs, and fuel our economic growth” is a little optimistic. That’s like a “Mahalo.com is actually useful as a search engine” kind of optimistic.
“Employ Technology and Innovation to Solve Our Nation’s Most Pressing Problems”
The man thinks that the move from hard-copy medical records to digital will save enough money for the consumers to a see lower the price of health care. The plans says that $77 billion could be saved in the switch to digital. Seriously? Imagine how much money newspapers could save. Of course, this is where Obama talks about the energy crisis, and of course, he says he’s going to fix it. Investing, investing, investing, is key here, further proving that throwing money on a fire can always put it out.
“Improve America’s Competitiveness”
The most compelling part of Obama’s competiveness plan is his devotion to the MPAA and the RIAA in the face of rapidly increasing world-wide piracy. He hopes to rewrite copyright law to stay up with our advancements. Considering that your most active support base is the same kids who continue to rape copyright holders left and right, brave move. Brave move.
Okay, okay. I’ve been pretty harsh on this presidential hopeful. But consider me between a Barack and a hard place. He’s got interesting ideas that show he’s been paying attention to the development of technology during the ice age we’ve experienced over the last 8 years, and we can’t ignore the breadth of his plan or the attention to detail it displays. But there’s some lofty goals throughout, and I guess we’ll have to wait till the election to get some real answers on how he’s going to turn the government’s technology strategy upside-down.
Stay tuned next week for a review of Hillary Clinton‘s technology plan.
Brian James Kirk is a writer and adventurer living in Philadelphia. By adventuring, he means occasionally to friends’ homes for games of Balderdash. If you know a Philadelphia technology scoop that would fit this space, you are graciously encouraged to get in touch.