On the drive back to Columbus from the Cincinnati One Web Day event, I was not only trying to figure out the best way to present the event in my blog post but also the best way to answer questions from my eleven year old. I brought my son with me to the event. I let him miss school (not a minor decision) in order to expose him to a situation where he could ask a question of a representative of a presidential candidate and to talk with others about the importance of technology in our lives. I also wanted him to understand how the event came to be and why it was important. Ultimately, those are the same things I want to convey to you.
We did not have a representative of McCain participate. Gigi Sohn, founder of Public Knowledge, represented Obama.
I should define the process for invitations. I emailed invitations to both campaigns. Through my involvement with the Obama campaign I was given a good email address for requesting a McCain rep. The request was forwarded twice. We landed with an individual who tried his best to get us someone. Unfortunately when it turned out Michael Powell was not available in the morning, the McCain folks were unable to find us someone who a) wanted to participate and b) made it through their vetting process. Very unfortunate. Also important to note, we did invite the Nader folks. No response.
The video Skype between Gigi Sohn and the participants worked beautifully. Sohn described how Obama is using tech in the campaign (blogging, social networking) and gave us about a 15 minutes rundown of Obama’s tech platform.
This is probably a good time to mention I met and blogged about meeting Senator Obama a little over two years ago at the Ohio Democratic Party State Dinner (my name was Angela Stuber back then). I was not a regular at party events and in fact, still am not. I had the good fortune to attend due to my status as a blogger and my (at the time) board president’s recommendation. It is not just recently that Barack Obama has realized the usefulness of technology within a campaign. Before he ran for president, he purchased that blogger table at the Ohio Democratic Party State Dinner that resulted in me sitting at a table with him asking him his position on net neutrality. Yes, a smart cookie.
Gigi Sohn presented 5 of the 7 sections from Obama’s technology platform.
- Free exchange of information on the internet. This is the net neutrality section but she never actually said “net neutrality”. She mentioned Obama’s interest in opening up the wireless industry. I had not previously heard that from the campaign. She stated that tech should be used to protect privacy not invade privacy.
- Connected and transparent democracy. Recommend creation of federal Chief Technology Officer. Creation of a searchable database of contracts and earmarks. Not all folks participating were ready for the CTO idea one and it intrigued them greatly.
- Modern Communication Infrastructure. Use 7 billion of the Universal Service Fund for broadband deployment. Free up spectrum for broadband.
- Use today’s tech to solve today’s problems. Make more health information available. Increase technology literacy.
- Improve American competetiveness. Increase number of H1B Visas. Change the patent system to encourage technology patents.
We had a dozen attendees. Sohn answered multiple questions about the idea of a Chief Technology Officer, net neutrality (which she referred to as an open internet) and broadband access. I asked about the campaign’s plan to assist undereducated adults with digital literacy. Sohn’s responded by discussing students. I encourage the campaign to utilize the extensive number of grassroots developed digital literacy programs in place all over the country serving undereducated adults. These programs struggle with no targeted source of funding but their services are very much needed by our society.
My eleven year old son asked a question also but I’ll let him tell you about that. BTW, I only edited his blog post for spelling, as much as it killed me to hold back, I wanted to make sure the blog post was really his own. He is also going to create a power point to present to his class at school. Yes, sometimes missing school turns out to be a good deal of work :-).