The U.S. VP Candidate Who Can Spell IT: Sarah Palin

Rob Enderle

If you are living in North America and have any interest in IT, you have come to realize that not a single politician from either side has really wanted anything from us for some time other than money. The Democrats have used Web technology more aggressively but, since Al Gore, have hardly been big supporters. McCain is still trying to figure out what e-mail is. The surprise addition of Sarah Palin, according to Input, may change this dramatically; she may actually be more IT focused than even Al Gore was. Gore, while clearly connected to the Internet and technology, really wasn't known as an IT supporter.


But, according to Input, Sarah Palin, the Republican VP candidate, has a history of spending money on real IT services in both her roles as mayor of Wasilla and governor of Alaska. Input is a firm that specializes in studies surrounding government bidding practices and activity. It isn't partial to any politician nor to any one party, that I can tell.


Why Input Is Excited


Analysts in any vertical industry, and U.S. government has in the past been a lucrative industry, get excited when that industry appears to be about to get an influx of cash and bid activity. Palin, according to Input, spent nearly $70 million on technology and telecommunications, with about 41 percent going to IT services and consulting. They already have nearly $50 million in 2009 IT projects, suggesting that she was increasing her spending and, because she is known for being very fiscally responsible, the inference is this is because she saw results from last year's expenditures.


As far as transparency into the spending, according to Input, the state of Alaska's Checkbook Online shows where this money went. An impressively complete breakdown can be found on the Input site, along with coverage of her January state of the state speech on the importance of IT spending.


In these hard times, any executive who gets that IT, if properly funded and staffed, can save more money by far than it costs is going to be a hero to a firm like Input that is specializing in tracking IT expenditures.


Impact: If Elected


From an IT perspective, particularly if you work for government, if Palin is able to demonstrate real returns from this spending, her examples should permeate the government segment even if she isn't elected. But they will spread more quickly if she is elected, of course, and still has the authority to drive related initiatives. Given her apparent interest in this space and McCain's lack of interest, you would think he would let her take the lead here.


IT clearly goes through cycles from being the place where executives invest money to increase competitiveness to being a place where executives cut spending because they didn't see the advantages they were promised. Currently, it would appear that the market is more on the latter than the former course.


A top politician that could demonstrate -- with demonstrate being the key word -- the benefits of effective IT spending could help put the market and other IT executives back on a more interesting and well-funded path, and help make them more relevant again.


Wrapping Up


Historically with the Democrats, we've had politicians who could aggressively use technology to get elected and Republicans who could probably spell technology correctly 90 percent of the time. With Palin, we have the nearly unprecedented possibility of having someone in a top office who actually gets why technology is important and is articulate, not on the technology itself, but on how to make the best use of it.


That could be amazingly powerful for this industry. It could be the first time since I've been doing this that we've had someone who viewed the technology market as a strategic U.S. advantage, and not just a tactical source for election funds. It should make things even more interesting to watch and is potentially good news for those who sell into government. No wonder Input is happy.


By the way, I'm not suggesting you vote one way or another. Here in California, we gave up on making much of an impact on presidential elections decades ago. I'm suggesting that we in technology may like to encourage both sides to use Palin as a good example of how to effectively use technology to reduce the national debt and increase our competitiveness.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 13, 2008 2:28 PM Hottopics Hottopics  says:
Forget about experience - this woman is a nut case. Has there ever been a worse candidate chosen to be VP. I bet McCain wishes he hadn't picked her. Reply
Sep 14, 2008 2:09 PM realitybiter realitybiter  says:
According to reports today, Palin's gang in Alaska stopped using departmental email systems and deliberately moved to GMail in an attempt to bypass freedom of information and open government mandates, and to avoid subpeonas.As a result, much of Alaska's confidential information is now sitting in unencrypted accounts on Google's servers where it's trivially easy to hack into using nothing more than basic XSS or dictionary attacks. This bespeaks a staggering lack of knowledge of how email and information technology works. Also, she believes people were riding around on vegetarian dinosaurs 4000 years ago. Conclusion: nutjob. Reply
Sep 15, 2008 1:44 PM shyam shyam  says:
hi all well, nice so much....... Reply
Sep 15, 2008 6:15 PM TravisV TravisV  says:
While interesting that she has overseen IT projects / spending historically ... it seems like a *real* stretch to surmise that IT would even be a blip on her radar screen if elected VP. Reply
Sep 16, 2008 3:16 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
Correct, thanks for the catch. In the piece it says her tenure in Juneau, but it was referring to her time heading the State not the town. Thanks for the catch I'll fix. Agreed that technology isn't, nor should it be, the issue. I just like it that for once we have someone that seems to know a little about using it for more than elections. Personally I'm split between these two groups. Biden is closest to my personal beliefs, Obama is too far left McCain (at least now) too far right and Palin makes McCain look liberal. I took this http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/MatchoMatic/fullpage?id=5542139 quiz to see which side I should be on and ended 7 McCain and 6 Obama with 2 questions that were basically coin flips for me. I couldn't be more on the fence. In any case, I just thought the Input thing was interesting, thanks again for the catch! Reply
Sep 16, 2008 5:45 PM Jim Melanson Jim Melanson  says:
She scares me. Anyone coming out of the woodwork (or yellow snow...yes that is a Zappa ref) willing and eager to taunt an old school KGB like Putin is scary. Freaks me out that so much of her words and works are of Gods Will.It must have been God's will that her 17 year old daughter got pregnant and will now be a hero and fine example amongst the evangelic American youth because she is a pro lifer (hey I am a dad I love life and children too) and her and the father will marry at the end of Maw Palins shot gun and live happy ever after because they were told that is what they will do at least while mommy is running for office along side of McCain.oh........did this have anything to do with IT? Perhaps a company that got lots and lots of money out of Palin? I guess that is sort of IT-ish in a boastful way (Haliburton DICK Cheneyism). Oh well anyway if she and His Oldness do get elected we are screwed. The elitist Evangelic folks like to see other people suffer especially since they are not tolerance. At least the old guy didnt pick Millard Romney (aka Mitt Romney for all you folks outside of MassachusettsIll bet ya didnt even know or realize he was a democrat at one time tee heet tee heet shhhhh )time to go back to my IT job while I still have it! Reply
Sep 16, 2008 7:37 PM Scott Tse Scott Tse  says:
Rob. You have always been insightful, but this one may be off. Palin is of the generation that is very comfortable with technology, and she may have done some good with IT, but technology is not the key issue for the next 4 years. Also, as point of fact, Palin was mayor of Wasilia, not Juneau. Wasilia is far smaller than Juneau. Reply
Sep 18, 2008 9:22 AM JQ JQ  says:
How is it that the state of Alaska has an "official" email address for their governor on Yahoo? If that's Palin version of IT, i think she left out a few letters in the middle - I D I O T Reply
Sep 29, 2008 1:29 PM Dan Dan  says:
I'm certain Sarah Palin's knowledge of the Internet and IT pales in comparison to unprecedented and artful use of the Web by Barack Obama and his campaign. To say the Democrats are not big users of Web technology since Al Gore is a head-in-the-sand observation. Experience is measured by actions, not words. Obama's campaign machine has a monthly budget of $40 million. That's five times the annual budget of Wasilla, AK Much of this is the result of grass-roots support and the Web. Reply
Sep 30, 2008 1:39 PM Rob Enderle Rob Enderle  says:
My point was that Palin has demonstrated a use beyond campaigning, I agree, and pointed out, that the Democrats for some time have used it successfully in a campaign. Right now, in particular, we likely need some folks who can use technology for something other than effective marketing. And, personally, right now, a skill at spending more money than a city on things that don't speak to productivity (getting elected is nice but not a top priority of mine). Al Gore isn't running this time and while he is on Apple's board. What he does on that board appears to have little to do with IT. However, were he running I'd give you that point. Reply

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