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

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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.