How IT rocked the vote

Seemed like everywhere you looked during the U.S. presidential election, information technology popped up as an issue.

Sarah Palin getting her email hacked was big news for a day or two. There was all kinds of talk about Barack Obama’s techno-savvy approach to the campaign and how it helped him galvanize his support base and raise bazillions of dollars. And although coming a little late to the table, John McCain got his act together – sort of – by overhauling his Web site and making it more attractive to youthful voters in particular.

And with legions of Facebook fanatics suddenly becoming part of the political process, it’s certain that no future campaigns will ever take IT for granted again.

As voting day approached, talk turned to electronic voting and the possibility that a modestly clever scofflaw could skew the count. One scenario had the culprit substituting a processing chip that would change ten percent of the votes from one party to the other, thereby giving a whole new meaning to the term political hack.

Luckily, the election was a landslide and the electronic voting issue quickly went away. But you can bet it’ll be back again, and if the vote is a cliff-hanger, things could get really ugly. This time they won’t even have hanging chads to mull over.

On voting day itself, information technology took centre stage – from smart screens that stretched, shrank, sliced, diced and otherwise projectile-vomited information at the swipe of a finger to omniscient number-crunching programs that could accurately predict an outcome with zero percent of the vote counted. I’m going to try to hire that one to work on my stock portfolio.

Of course the one thing that doesn’t get mentioned during elections – ever – is the information technology business itself. This despite the fact that the U.S. lost its historic trade surplus in advanced technology products in 2002, and for the past four years has had a combined deficit in technology goods and services, which once helped offset the county’s import bills for oil, food, and manufactured goods.

Then again, maybe it’s a good thing that the U.S. government keeps its finger out of this particular pie. The IT industry has enough concerns without having to worry how the feds may step in to help it.

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