The lack of focus on technology during this election cycle is reflected in a certain amount of ambivalence in the tech industry. In terms of money, the tech industry clearly supports candidate Obama. Electronics and communications companies have contributed more money to Obama (almost $19 million) than Romney (about $9 million), according to the most recent figures from the Center for Responsive Politics. Both Microsoft and Google are among Obama's top five contributors. All of Romney's top five contributors are banks or finance firms of some kind.
But there's also evidence that the majority of tech executives -- like most business leaders -- lean Republican. An October
survey of technology executives by DLA Piper revealed an interesting dichotomy. A strong majority -- 76 percent --said they believed that President Obama would be reelected while at the same time 64 percent said they actually thought Romney would have a more positive impact on the technology industry. (It's notable that this survey was done after the first debate, which Romney was widely perceived to have won.)
Another interesting point: Some 60 percent of the tech leaders were skeptical that a second term for Obama would have a positive impact on the technology sector. That's a switch from the 2008 election, said DLA Piper, when nearly 60 percent of tech executives believed that an Obama Administration would have a more positive impact on technology development and investment than would one led by Republican candidate Senator John McCain.
Indeed, I remember the level of excitement in 2008 over the fact that, in Obama, we'd finally have a tech-savvy president. Here was a guy that used a BlackBerry (does he use an iPhone now?) and understood the Internet. And Obama has done a fair bit to bring the federal government into the 21st Century. His administration is pushing federal agencies to adopt cloud computing and implement data analytics, for example, while also encouraging them to make more government data available to the public via the Internet.
But a discussion of technology policy, and how technology can help our country, is strangely absent from this campaign. Don't the candidates consider it important? Or do they just believe technology issues are too complex to boil down to a 30-second ad or a campaign speech for the masses? Let's hope it's the latter and that whoever ends up in the White House realizes tech's potential to solve some of our most pressing problems.
Tam Harbert is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. This article originally appeared on EBN, an EE Times sister site.