From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

“This year, with a race so close and primaries ending so early, it’s
hard to make the difficult decison about who to vote for and to
support. Thankfully, there’s one issue that makes the decision a whole
lot easier: is your candidate open-source?”

For reference:

Democratic Candidates:
Barack Obama runs Linux
Hillary Clinton runs Windows Server 2003
John Edwards ran Linux and some Windows Server 2003
Dennis Kucinich ran Linux

Ron Paul runs Linux
John McCain runs Windows Server 2003 and some FreeBSD
Mike Huckabee runs Windows Server 2003 and some Linux
Mitt Romney ran Linux
Rudy Giuliani ran Windows Server 2003

“The irony is that Bill Gates gave money to Obama’s campaign.”
– posted by Pastabagel at 8:34 AM on February 7

Open Formats Enter the Presidential Debate  /  November 17 2007

“Those of us who live in America are currently in the midst of that
most protracted, expensive and (often) tedious of all democratic
processes: the quadrennial quest to find, and perhaps even elect, the
most able leader to guide the nation into the future.  Part and parcel
to that spectacle is a seemingly endless torrent of printed words and
video.  These emanate from more than a dozen candidates, each of whom
is trying to convince the electorate that he or she is The One, while
at the same time hoping to avoid offering any point of vulnerability
that can be exploited by the opposition.

It is an overwhelming and leveling experience for all concerned,
electorate and candidates alike.

Out of the campaign cacophony of the last week emerged a handful of
words from Senator and Democratic party hopeful Barack Obama that
could not fail to catch my attention.  He used them during the
presidential debate held in Las Vegas, and they also appear in the
“Innovation Agenda” that Obama had released a few days before.  He
announced this agenda in a speech he delivered on November 14 at an
aptly selected venue:  the Google campus in Mountainview, California.
One of the pledges he made in the course of that speech reads in part
as follows:

“To seize this moment, we have to use technology to open up our
democracy. It’s no coincidence that one of the most secretive
Administrations in history has favored special interests and pursued
policies that could not stand up to sunlight. As President, I’ll
change that. I’ll put government data online in universally accessible
formats.  [emphasis added]
A presidential candidate that is including “universally accessible
formats” in his platform?  How did that come about?”

The fact of the matter is that I have no idea, but apparently he (or
his handlers) believe that open formats are important enough not only
to be used in the debate and the full nine-page policy statement
available at the Obama Web site, but in the much briefer press release
as well.

Another intriguing question is what exactly he means by “universally
accessible formats.”  Does that phrase indicate formats that implement
vendor neutral open standards, or formats that are accessible to those
with disabilities, or both?  And if it means the former, what criteria
would qualify a format as being “universally accessible?”  Adoption by
a consortium?  Adoption by ISO/IEC JTC1?  Widespread market adoption?
All of the above?

And on a related note, did Obama’s advisors independently come to the
conclusion that open formats are important, and incorporate them as
part of a prudent and comprehensive effort to frame out an open and
interoperable government IT framework, or did the suggestion come from
outside – perhaps from one vendor or another?  If the impetus was not
external, then kudos to the sophistication of Obama’s staff, and to
Obama’s bravery as well, if he is aware of the history of open formats
in governmental debate to date.  But if the suggestion came from
outside and was included without full awareness of recent history,
well, one can’t help but wonder exactly what “universally accessible”
is really meant to mean.

The full policy makes for an interesting read, and contains much else
of interest, such as a commitment to network neutrality, support for
what appears to be an expansion of the peer to patent process now in
beta test, and much more (a good summary can be found here).  It will
be doubly interesting if other candidates issue their own policies, as
this would provide an opportunity to see how different political camps
envision the role of IT in government.

If so, will any other candidate mention open formats as well?  There
is, of course, at least one other contender with as much or more
experience with the contentious topic of open formats in a political
setting:  Mitt Romney – the Massachusetts governor whose Secretary of
Administration and Finance and CIO launched the entire debate two
years ago.

Overall, one can only applaud Obama for beginning a dialogue on the
role of IT in government.  As the provision of government services
becomes increasingly a digitized process, the importance of IT
increases as both an enabler of new interaction between government and
citizenry, but as something to be very carefully conceived, in order
to ensure security, preservation and uninterrupted services.

As usual, I have included the full press release below, for archival


Obama Unveils Innovation Agenda at Google  /  Mountain View, CA  /
November 14, 2007

“At a town hall meeting today at Google headquarters, U.S. Senator
Barack Obama will unveil an innovation agenda that will connect and
empower Americans through technology. The comprehensive plan will
ensure the full and free exchange of information by protecting the
openness of the internet and encouraging diversity in media ownership,
create a transparent and connected democracy by opening up government
to its citizens, modernize our communications infrastructure, employ
technology and information to take on the challenges facing America,
and improve our nation’s competitiveness.”

Excerpts from Obama’s prepared remarks are below:

“Together, we could open up government and invite citizens in, while
connecting all of America to 21st century broadband. We could use
technology to help achieve universal health care, to reach for a clean
energy future, and to ensure that young Americans can compete – and
win – in the global economy. If America recommits itself to science
and innovation, we can lead the world to a new future of productivity
and prosperity. That’s what we can do if we seize this moment.”

“I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network
neutrality. Because once providers start to privilege some
applications or web sites over others, then the smaller voices get
squeezed out, and we all lose. The Internet is perhaps the most open
network in history. We have to keep it that way.”


“To seize this moment, we have to use technology to open up our
democracy. It’s no coincidence that one of the most secretive
Administrations in history has favored special interests and pursued
policies that could not stand up to sunlight. As President, I’ll
change that. I’ll put government data online in universally accessible
formats. I’ll let citizens track federal grants, contracts, earmarks,
and lobbyist contacts. I’ll let you participate in government forums,
ask questions in real time, offer suggestions that will be reviewed
before decisions are made, and let you comment on legislation before
it is signed. And to ensure that every government agency is meeting
21st century standards, I’ll appoint the nation’s first Chief
Technology Officer.”


“We need to make sure that the next success story – the next Google –
happens here in America. The Google story is about what can be
achieved when we cultivate new ideas and keep the playing field level
for new businesses. But it’s also about not settling for what we’ve
achieved. It’s about constantly raising the bar so that we’re more
competitive, and so we use technology to reach ever-expanding
horizons…The promise and prosperity of our new economy must not
become the property of the few, it must be a force that lifts up our
entire country, and that lifts up the world.”

Obama’s innovation agenda would:

I.Ensure the Full and Free Exchange of Information through an Open
Internet and Diverse Media Outlets

· Protect the Openness of the Internet
· Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership
· Protect Our Children While Preserving the First Amendment
· Safeguard Our Right to Privacy

II. Create a Transparent and Connected Democracy

· Open Up Government to its Citizens
· Bring Government into the 21st Century

III. Deploy a Modern Communications Infrastructure

· Deploy Next-Generation Broadband

IV. Employ Technology and Innovation to Solve Our Nation’s Most
Pressing Problems

· Lower Health Care Costs by Investing in Electronic Information
· Invest in Climate-Friendly Energy Development and Deployment
· Upgrade Education to Meet the Needs of the 21st Century
· Create New Jobs
· Modernize Public Safety Networks

V. Improve America’s Competitiveness

· Invest in the Sciences
· Make the R & D Tax Cut Permanent
· Reform Immigration
· Promote American Businesses Abroad
· Ensure Competitive Markets
· Protect American Intellectual Property Abroad
· Protect Intellectual American Property at Home
· Reform the Patent System



Barack Obama: Refining Tech Policy
BY Roy Mark  /  2007-11-16

Citizen democracy, privacy and free speech in technology take the
stage as Obama’s IT platform takes shape.

On an issue where theres little disagreement between the candidates,
Sen. Barack Obama moved Nov. 14 to differentiate himself from the
Democratic pack with a detailed technology agenda.

While Obamas overall tech policy tracks with the plans from the other
candidates–support for network neutrality, increased H-1B visas and
jacked up spending and investment on math, science and technology–the
Illinois Democrat uses his ambitious agenda to detail his broader view
on citizen democracy, privacy and free speech.

Network neutrality, for instance, is more than a rate dispute between
broadband and content providers, according to Obama. Without network
neutrality rules or laws, he contends, the “quality of speech through
which the Internet has begun to transform American political and
cultural discourse” would be threatened.

At a campaign stop at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif., Nov.
14, Obama said, “I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to
network neutrality.” In his tech agenda released the same day, he
added that network neutrality would “ensure that [the Internet]
remains a platform for free speech and innovation that will benefit
consumers and our democracy.”

With the usual obligatory nod to training more Americans for high-tech
jobs, Obamas tech immigration position moves beyond his fellow
candidates promising more H-1B visas. Under an Obama administration,
he says, all immigrants who earn their college degrees in the United
States will be given a path to citizenship.

“We should examine our ability to increase the number of permanent
visas we issue to foreign skilled workers,” Obama states in his
agenda. “We do not want to shut our doors to innovators overseas, who
have traditionally made America strong.”

On the Internet issues of free speech and participatory democracy,
Obama steps ahead of other Democratic contenders for the White House
in promoting specific ideas and proposals.

“[Obama] believes that openness of the new media world should be seen
as an opportunity as much as some see it as a threat,” his policy
paper states. He “does not view regulation as the answer to these

Instead of the host of laws–most ultimately rejected by the courts–
introduced over the last decade by both Democrats and Republicans to
protect children online, Obama said parents should be provided
filtering tools, including requiring content providers to offer
parental controls software that not only blocks objectionable material
but also prevents children from revealing personal information.

“Private entities like Common Sense Media are pursuing a sanity not
censorship approach, which can serve as a model for how to use
technology to empower parents without offending the First Amendment,”
the paper states.

Obama also proposes the creation of “Public Media 2.0” as the next
generation of public media that will “create the Sesame Street of the
digital age and other video and interactive programming.” He said he
would support funding for moving existing public broadcasting stations
online to help “renew their founding visions in the digital world.”

But nowhere in his tech policy agenda is Obama more impassioned on his
view of 21st century technology as he is about government and the

“Together, we could open up government and invite citizens in, while
connecting all of America to 21st century broadband,” Obama said at
his Google campaign stop. “We could use technology to help achieve
universal health care, to reach for a clean energy future and to
ensure that young Americans can compete–and win–in the global

In Obamas view of his potential presidency, Americans would be able to
watch a live Internet feed of all government proceedings, from agency
meetings to congressional hearings. He would give people an
opportunity to review and comment on White House Web site for five
days before signing any non-emergency legislation.

In addition, he would create a government Web site and search engine
to allow users to track online federal grants, contracts, earmarks and
lobbyist contacts with government officials.

Overseeing it all would be the nations first chief technology officer.
The federal CTO would have the authority to ensure government agencies
have the right infrastructure, policies and services to solicit and
receive information from citizens. The CTO would also oversee a
national, interoperable wireless network for first responders.

“This policy will enable Americans to discuss and debate more actively
they key issues that affect our lives and will give citizens greater
autonomy to determine where the truth lies,” Obamas agenda states.

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