Big Data Turns Partisan as Political Powers Get Tech Savvy

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

Four Steps to Ensure Your Big Data Investment Pays Off

A lot of focus these days has been given to “big money and donors” in political campaigns, but is it possible that the real edge may go to the party that invests in “Big Data?”

This is not exactly a new topic: Two years ago, Big Data made election headlines when Nate Silver used data models to correctly call the presidential election — defying pollsters everywhere —and President Obama leveraged Big Data to rally voters.

A lot has changed in the past two years in terms of how we view and use Big Data. A recent Network World feature shows how Big Data has even infiltrated politics in new and unexpected ways. This time, Big Data isn’t being used to rally the troops or just make predictions. Instead, Big Data is ingrained as a key part of political strategy for both Republicans and Democrats.

While I prefer to think of technology as unaffiliated, politically speaking, that’s apparently no longer true in politics. For instance, Republicans as a national party have invested heavily in Big Data software since 2012, even launching Para Bellum Labs as “a startup company housed in the RNC.” The party operates several conservative-focused Big Data tools, including VoterGravity, which uses mapping software to match volunteer walk lists with targeted voters.

The party even has its own Big Data platform, called i360. The Koch brothers — known both famously and infamously for their financial influence in politics — sponsored the platform.

Despite these investments, Democrats may have the technology edge, in part because they’ve been capturing data since 2004 when the party “got our teeth kicked in,” as Bryan Whitaker puts it in the article. Whitaker is the COO of the NGP VAN, a privately held company that offers technology-based services to Democratic candidates.

Washington D.C.

Democrats also have an advantage when it comes to attracting technology talent, the article notes — and as those in the tech sector well know, talent is the real hurdle with Big Data projects. Even private companies struggle to find enough workers in what analysts like McKinsey call “the Big Data talent war."

Some IT staffing companies have even resorted to —gasp — recruiting older IT workers.

Data has infiltrated politics in new and unforeseen ways. Heck, there’s even a tool called NationBuilder for the non-partisan organization with political interests, but no budget for Big Data.

Loraine Lawson is a veteran technology reporter and blogger. She currently writes the Integration blog for IT Business Edge, which covers all aspects of integration technology, including data governance and best practices. She has also covered IT/Business Alignment and IT Security for IT Business Edge. Before becoming a freelance writer, Lawson worked at TechRepublic as a site editor and writer, covering mobile, IT management, IT security and other technology trends. Previously, she was a webmaster at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and a newspaper journalist. Follow Lawson at Google+ and on Twitter.

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