Campaigns Weigh in on Information Technology

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A 12-question survey of Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic Senator John Kerry shows both agree that information technology is key to the success of the U.S. economy overall, but disagree as to how to move the industry forward. The questionnaire, submitted to both campaigns by CompTIA, covers training and certification, Internet telephony, cyber-security, Internet content, intellectual property, broadband deployment, Internet privacy, spam, unlicensed wireless spectrum, small-business competition, research and development (R&D), and the overall importance of IT in the United States.

“We see this as an opportunity to help the membership understand how these issues that can affect their livelihood are being understood and dealt with by the various campaigns,” said Mike Wendy, manager of media relations at CompTIA. “Tech issues themselves have clearly been overshadowed in the 2004 election by issues of national security, the war in Iraq, domestic economic issues and other things. If you want to know where tech policy is, you’ve got to go to (campaign) Web sites and go through reams of documents.”


Although IT might not dominate the national discourse, neither the Democratic nor Republican presidential candidates are neglecting the industry’s issues or those affected by them in this election. “As we’re seeing, a handful of swing states have become very important, as in any election, and some of those swing states have a heavy tech presence, too,” said Wendy, and added that while CompTIA doesn’t endorse candidates, it does work with both of the major parties to further IT commercial objectives. “Those votes are recognized by the campaigns as being very important. The campaigns and the candidates themselves have an intimate understanding of where IT and the tech worker sit.”


The positions in the survey are not authored by Bush or Kerry, but are crafted by policy wings at the highest levels of both campaigns. The statements contained therein cannot go out without approval from the top, Wendy said. On the issue of training and certification, President Bush said he is proposing a $23 billion allocation of the federal budget for training and employment assistance, as well as a grant program for technical and community colleges to train workers for jobs in “high-growth industries.” Kerry, who labeled present government support for adult education “totally inadequate,” put forward a plan to raise spending levels on math and science in U.S. public schools and colleges, and develop on-demand online training tools for American workers.


On the issue of IT’s place in the development of the United States, both candidates acknowledged how crucial information technology was to the economy, both as a source for innovation and in its role in assisting advancement in other industries. Much like in all economic matters, the key difference between the two on most of the issues was that Kerry emphasized a greater role for the federal government in assisting IT businesses and workers, and Bush generally supported a more laissez-faire approach. It would be unfair and inaccurate, though, to characterize Kerry as being staunchly in favor of—or Bush being resolutely opposed to—government involvement in the field.


Wendy said disparities in the views of the two candidates on IT issues alone makes voting in this election necessary. “I think it can make tremendous difference,” he said. “Washington clearly matters. The IT industry sees Washington as being a partner, someone to work with and someone you don’t want to offend.”


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