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Recommended read: 8 ways tech shaped the 2008 vote

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I mentioned that I’m going down to Williamsburg, VA on Sunday for the Industry Advisory Council’s 2008 Executive Leadership Conference — one of the big government IT conferences of the year… and that I’m going to be part of a panel that gets to question the representatives of the presidential campaigns. (I’ve had a few suggestions for questions sent to me, but… send ’em along or, even better, post them here.)

But I came across this story in Network World: 8 ways technology has shaped the ’08 elections.

Technology has played a particularly prominent role in the 2008 elections — and it isn’t just the typical silliness over whether a candidate really claimed to have invented a key piece of technology. Throughout the year we’ve seen technological advances used both for good, such as using Short Message Service to announce a vice presidential pick, and for bad, such as hacking into another vice presidential pick’s private e-mail account. In this story, we’ll take a look at the eight techiest moments of the 2008 presidential race, including YouTube debates, viral videos and e-voting controversies.

And they highlight the CNN/YouTube debates… tech luminaries making endorsements…

I think writer Brad Reed missed the biggest one, however — how technology has been ingrained into the presidential race. Check out the campaign Web sites — they are creating social networks around their campaigns and their issues. And I think that is really going to impact how this next administration will manage — and how agencies will have to work.

Yesterday, on Federal News Radio’s InDepth with Francis Rose mid-day show, Rose had two former CIOs on — Microsoft’s Kim Nelson, formerly the EPA CIO, and consultant John Gilligan, the former Air Force CIO. The program is definitely worth a listen. [MP3] They spend some time talking about the role of the CIO in light of the OMB CIO memo, but… at the end of the program, Nelson says what I say above — the new administration, regardless of which side comes in, is going to want to use these tools to help them get their jobs done. They used it to win an election, and they believe that they can use them to run agencies.

T-minus 11 days until election day… 88 days until the inauguration

Written by cdorobek

October 24, 2008 at 10:19 AM

Posted in 2008 Vote, EGov, Management, strategy

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Who might be the government’s CIO… er, CTO?

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BusinessWeek today has a piece, headlined, “The Short List for U.S. Chief Technology Officer: Barack Obama has pledged to name a cabinet-level CTO to oversee a job-creating national broadband buildout if he’s elected. Big names abound.”

Among the names are Vint Cerf, Steve Ballmer, Jeff Bezos, and Ed Felten, a prominent professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has proposed the creation of a CTO in government.

Bring Government into the 21st Century: Barack Obama and Joe Biden will use technology to reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens while ensuring the security of our networks. Obama and Biden believe in the American people and in their intelligence, expertise, and ability and willingness to give and to give back to make government work better. Obama will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

Unfortunately we simply don’t know much more about what the CTO will do other then what it says above.

The BusinessWeek piece had these thoughts:

A White House CTO would be expected to help create incentive programs to expand broadband’s reach, particularly tax credits for smaller carriers. But the tech czar would almost certainly be deeply involved in overseeing a federally-backed $50 billion venture capital fund that Obama has proposed to develop more environmentally friendly technology.

Again, just not much there. That’s largely because I’m not sure Team Obama has thought about it.

To be fair, there isn’t much more of a plan on the other side. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s technology plan have the same platitudes about making more information available online… and then there is this line:

Since 2001, he has called for an Office of Electronic Government to set a strategic vision for implementation of electronic government.

Somebody might want to let the campaign know that Karen Evans is, in fact, OMB’s Administrator of E-Government and Information Technology. So, I’m all for fighting the good fight, but… if he is still fighting for that office to be created, he can let it go. He won!

Written by cdorobek

October 20, 2008 at 10:03 AM

Presidential cookies… and your privacy

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If the presidential candidates Web sites were government Web sites, they would violate federal privacy rules.

The Web sites of both presidential candidates use Web cookies. Web cookies are, to use the definition that the NIST Web site uses, are “small bits of text that are either used for the duration of a session (“session cookies) or saved on a user’s hard drive in order to identify that user, or information about that user, the next time the user logs on the a Web site (“persistent cookies”).” By OMB mandate as part of the E-Gov Act, persistent cookies are not allowed on federal Web sites unless specifically approved — and the approval process is somewhat arduous, so few do it.

I am interested to see who uses cookies and why. The issue is controversial in the Web world. Privacy advocates are not big fans of cookies — they can let a site track where you’ve been and how you make your way through a Web site. Web content managers love because they can show how users actually use the Web site so they can make it better. They also allow you to save a password or remember where you’ve been on a Web site, for example.

Frankly, most people just don’t think about it — not unlike many privacy issues, to be honest. (I follow this issue occasionally… See FCW Insider posts I did on the topic here… and here… and here.)

So I thought it would be interesting to see how the presidential candidates deal with the issue — and while both the Obama and McCain Web sites use persistent cookies, they both talk about it in their Web privacy policies.

BarackObama.com

As I mentioned, the Web site of the Obama for President campaign does use persistent cookies — as you can see, this cookie expires on September 26, 2010. But the campaign does a good job of explaining the whole thing on the campaign’s privacy policy:

Browser information collected on the web site:

We log IP addresses, which are the locations of computers or networks on the Internet, and analyze them in order to improve the value of our site. We also collect aggregate numbers of page hits in order to track the popularity of certain pages and improve the value of our site. We do not gather, request, record, require, collect or track any Internet users’ Personal Information through these processes.

We use cookies on our site. A “cookie” is a tiny text file that we store on your computer to customize your experience and support some necessary functions. We also use cookies to better understand how our visitors use our site. Our cookies contain no Personal Information and are neither shared nor revealed to other sites. We do not look for or at other sites’ cookies on your computer.

You also have choices with respect to cookies. By modifying your browser preferences, you can accept all cookies, be notified when a cookie is set, or reject all cookies. (For more information on how to block or filter cookies, see http://www.cookiecentral.com/faq.) However, if you reject some or all cookies, your experience at our site and other sites throughout the World Wide Web may not be complete. Also, you would be unable to take advantage of personalized content delivery offered by other Internet sites or by us.

We may use pixel tags (also known as web beacons or clear GIF files) or other tracking technology to help us manage our online advertising and to analyze and measure the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns and the general usage patterns of visitors to our Web site.. Such technologies may also be used by third party advertising service providers who serve or assist us in managing ads on our site, such as DoubleClick, Yahoo Tremor and 24/7 RealMedia. These files enable us or these third parties to recognize a unique cookie on your Web browser, which in turn enables us to learn which advertisements bring users to our website and to deliver advertising targeted to your interests. The information that is collected and shared using these pixel tags and similar technology is anonymous and not personally identifiable. It does not contain your name, address, telephone number, or email address. We are not responsible for and do not control any actions or policies of any third party advertising technology service providers or of any third party members of any related advertising networks. For more information about DoubleClick, including information about how to opt out of the use of these technologies by DoubleClick, go to http://www.doubleclick.net/us/corporate/privacy. To opt out of collection by 24/7 Real Media, please visit: http://www.247realmedia.com/opt-out.html. To opt our of collection by Yahoo Search Marketing, please go to http://info.yahoo.com/privacy/us/yahoo/ysmt/details.html.

Obama’s Web site also had a cookie that expired… in 1919. Hmmm.

JohnMcCain.com

The Web site of McCain for President also uses persistent cookies — see the cookie here that expires on Dec. 31, 2019. But, again, the campaign does a good job of explaining the what and why on the campaign’s privacy policy:

How we use log files to better serve you: We use log files to assess the aggregate level of traffic to JohnMcCain.com including what pages people are visiting, and to diagnose any potential problems with the Web site. This log file does contain an “Internet Protocol” or IP address that gives us insight on the general geographic area that visitors are coming from but not information on a specific individual. All users remain anonymous unless they choose to give us personally identifiable information, or log in to the website using a username and password or through a cookie stored on the user computer.

Information collected when you donate: When you make a contribution to John McCain 2008, federal law requires us to collect and report the following information: name, mailing address, employer, occupation, and amount of contribution. Federal law requires us to report this information to the Federal Election Commission if an individual’s contribution or contributions aggregate in excess of $200 in a single election cycle. Contributions from corporations, government contractors, foreign nationals without a “green card,” and minors (individuals under the age of 18) are prohibited. Any credit card information provided is only used to immediately process your donation. John McCain 2008 does not retain your credit card information once the donation is processed online. John McCain 2008 may also choose to publicly disclose donors online or in other methods.

Use of cookies and protecting your privacy: We do make use of cookies to personalize and customize your interaction with JohnMcCain.com and to provide you with the best possible online experience. A cookie is a tiny text file that is placed on your hard drive and does not contain any personal information about you.

Cookies are a privacy low hanging fruit, and that’s why I often check in on them. Often the biggest issue with privacy is giving people the option — telling them what you are doing and letting them decide — transparency, even.

Earlier in the year when I looked at all of the campaigns cookies, the campaign with the most persistent cookies: Rudy Giuliani. Cookies on his Web site expired on January 17, 2038… but even he had an explainer.

Written by cdorobek

October 15, 2008 at 7:39 AM

DorobekInsider: Questions the presidential candidates should debate

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What questions should the presidential candidates debate? It is a great questions — and an apt one for feds, whose lives, of course, will be touched by the new administration — regardless of who wins.

The Partnership for Public Service Wednesday released its “Road map to Reform,” which consists of a series of proposals for the next President when it comes to managing the government. Federal News Radio’s Max Cacas was at the briefing at the National Press Club and was on the Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris with his first look. [Hear the conversation here .mp3; Check federalnewsradio.com for the full story on Thursday.]

One part of that road map: Questions that the presidential candidates should be asked during debates. And they are pretty good.

One of the questions: “How will you measure your success in running our government?”

Read all of them.. after the break.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by cdorobek

October 2, 2008 at 12:26 AM

DorobekInsider.com: Does the government need a CTO?

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One of the big debates ongoing in the government IT community surrounds the proposal from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to create a federal chief technology officer. (You can read Obama’s technology plan here.)

On Federal News Radio’s mid-day show, InDepth with Francis Rose, on Friday, they had two former CIOs — Roger Baker, the former Commerce Department CIO and Ed Meagher, the former Interior deputy CIO, now with SRA — on the show to debate the issue. (Hear the full interview here. .mp3) Baker gives the idea a thumbs up — he believes the position would give the government a more strategic view of technology — while Meagher gave it a maybe and said there needs to be more details.

There was a fascinating piece in the most recent issue of Technology Review, published by MIT, that featured a interview with Mitch Kapor, who headed Lotus Development, which created the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program. The story has a simple headline: Does the U.S. Need a CTO?: Mitch Kapor, a pioneer of personal computing, says the position is vital given the growing importance of technology. The interview makes for an interesting read, but unfortunately Kapor still didn’t offer any more details.

Mitch Kapor likes beginnings. In 1982, he founded Lotus Development, which made the popular spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3. In 1990, he cofounded the ­Electronic Frontier Foundation, a political­-­advocacy and legal organization that champions free speech and privacy. And in 2003, he became the founding chair of the Mozilla Foundation, which is responsible for the open-source Web browser Firefox. Today, Kapor sits on the boards of such companies as ­Linden Research, and he heads his eponymous foundation, which provides grants to San Francisco Bay Area organizations working with low-income communities on educational and environmental issues.

Last fall, Kapor was called upon to help Senator Barack Obama define his technology positions. Kapor suggested that Obama, if elected president, should install a federal chief tech­nology officer. Conservatives grumbled at the idea of another layer of bureaucracy, but Kapor and others in Silicon Valley say the government needs cohesive technology practices and policies.

It is easy to get wrapped around the sympatic question of whether this CTO would just be a glorified federal CIO, or whether it would decrease the impact of government CIOs, which I think would be disappointing.

Both the Federal News Radio and the interview are interesting — and the subject deserves more attention.

Written by cdorobek

September 21, 2008 at 9:04 PM

DorobekInsider.com: Report urges candidates to focus on innovation

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Regular readers know that I’m fascinated about innovation, particularly in the rhelm of science and technology. It is an issue getting a lot of attention these days. In fact, it is largely the basis of NYT columnist Thomas J. Friedman’s new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America.

The Center for the Study of the Presidency — to be honest, a group that I had never heard of before — has put out a report focusing on presidential leadership in the areas of science and technology. (I found the study — and the group — through an article in New Scientist headlined, McCain vs Obama: Who will end the war on science. And yes, I will read just about any magazine!)

CSP Releases Report on Presidential Leadership to Ensure Science and Technology in the Service of National Needs

The role of science and technology assets is often overlooked as an element of national power. Many of the major policy challenges confronting the next President—energy resources, nuclear proliferation, climate change, environment, health-care, food and water, security, and economic prosperity—require scientific advice or guidance for successful strategic resolutions. The Center’s issue group on Presidential science and technology assets has released a new report urging both Presidential candidates to beginpre -election planning to ensure science and technology governance assets for cohesive and informed policies and effective policy implementation.

Read the report here [.pdf]

To be honest, I haven’t had a chance to read the report. (I don’t often recommend reports or books that I haven’t read — well, I try not to.)

I have been racing through another book on innovation because this afternoon on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris [3-7p ET on 1500 AM in DC or anywhere at FederalNewsRadio.com ] we will be talking to the author of a book on innovation. The book is Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy, by Judy Estrin.

I’ve been racing through the book so I can be prepared for the interview. Estrin actually was part of Vint Cerf’s research team that literally invented the Internet. Talk about innovation.

The book is not about government’s role specifically, of course, but she does talk about the role of DARPA and makes a case for long-term thinking that can spur innovation.

Estrin will be on early — in the 3p ET hour — and then the interview will be posted online.

I’m also working to get the folks from the Center for the Study of the Presidency on… to continue the theme.

As they say, stay tuned.

Written by cdorobek

September 16, 2008 at 10:07 AM