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The right perspective on technology

We live in a day and age of rapidly changing communication and technology. The Internet has opened a giant window for people and organizations around the world to share thoughts, ideas, images and news with each other almost at the speed of light. The emergence of social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter have created cyberspace gathering places for those sharing common interests and goals and hold incredible potential for communicating and organizing within the GOP community.

The maxim that ‘information is power’ has never rung more true than in our current political environment. Over the past decade, the RNC has invested the necessary time and resources to build a competitive advantage over the DNC by acquiring and utilizing data to drive decision-making and reach voters. Aside from the commitment and dedication of our RNC Members and GOP activists, our technological innovations in the use of information are the Party’s greatest asset.

But this information is of little use to the Republican Party’s success if it is not freely shared and easily disseminated within the Party, along with the necessary tools and instruction so that campaigns and Party organizations can succeed on their own. Republicans believe in personal responsibility…and I believe this also applies to the use of technology. The open flow of information among our activists and State Parties is the life blood of the GOP and the key to our growth, but we all must take the personal responsibility as RNC Members, activists, and perhaps most importantly, as candidates to integrate technology into our political efforts and campaigns.

If there is one area where I fully agree that the Party has not done enough, it is in promoting what we’ve already done. So while recent technological advancements demand that we continue to create and share information in new and exciting ways, we’ve also come a long way in a short amount of time. For example:

  • Since 1996 the RNC has partnered with State Parties to build and share our national voter file, which is recognized by all – including the Democrats – as the industry leader. New innovations like micro-targeting have kept this program at the leading edge of information management.
  • Since 2002, the Party’s Voter Vault system has allowed campaigns and Party organizations to take advantage of this investment. Currently in its third revision, the system provides a full range of campaign functions from tools as simple as locating an individual voter to projects as complex as deploying a full map-based door-to-door program. We continue to work with our State Parties and campaigns to improve and refine this product, which is why we’ll open the source code in 2009 and invite others to contribute their knowledge to our success.
  • In 2006, the RNC opened access to its national email list by providing State Parties with an online system that allows communication with the full RNC list – currently standing at 12 million strong.
  • In 2007 the RNC opened access to its website management tools by providing a platform on which State Parties may deploy and manage websites that are state-focused, but interconnected with the national Party.
  • Also in 2007, the RNC launched our own social networking platform – MyGOP – allowing online communities to grow and develop under the GOP umbrella. This platform must continue to improve and grow, just as our Facebook network has already attracted nearly 50,000 members and is growing exponentially every day as Republicans share their ideas, stories and experiences with others in the GOP community.
  • In 2008, the RNC opened access to a network of Internet advertising opportunities, allowing Parties and campaigns to extend the power of micro-targeting beyond traditional direct mail and phones and onto the Internet to more than 43 million online users.
  • Also in 2008, the Party made great strides in expanding the inbound flow of data from the field. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone banks were deployed in more than 170 field offices nationwide and allowed for the real-time collection of voter data, instantly uploaded into our databases at a cost savings of $9.7 million.
  • Finally, on Election Day, more than 500 campaign & State Party volunteers used Twitter to provide live updates of polling place activity – - updates that were used by journalists to report on voter irregularities and expose attempts to limit access to the ballot box.

Maintaining the infrastructure necessary to provide these services is a staggering and expensive endeavor. Providing the enhancements necessary to keep up with growing sophistication of campaigns and Party organizations is an even more daunting task. We must continue to recognize the fact that many of the most creative and innovative solutions to campaign problems originate in the precincts, counties, and states, rather than in Washington, DC. Part of our mission over the past two years has been to engage the best minds from inside and outside of politics to help understand how technological advances can be integrated in the day-to-day political activity of the RNC.

In 2009, the RNC will take the next great leap forward and open to others within our Party the architecture which drives these systems, allowing them to make the same contributions to the technology infrastructure that they make to the financial, intellectual, and organizational health of the Party. We will invite the best and the brightest minds to look at what we do and offer solutions on how we can do it better.

By offering Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for tools like Voter Vault, we will allow states and campaigns to add their own custom tools and enhancements to the Voter Vault system and share their successes with the Party at large. The Party will reap the full benefits of our information age by utilizing the full participation and ingenuity of all its members.

A comprehensive commitment to harnessing the power of the Internet and New Media for fundraising, communicating with voters, and empowering voters to interact with one another is a given. However, continuing to improve the data and technological infrastructure of the Party is an equally important priority – and one that must involve every Republican who shares our goals. Opening this infrastructure will enable all Republicans to benefit from individual innovations. And it is the right thing to do.

I recognize the importance of technology to the future of politics. I also recognize that the technologies that we will use in 2010 and 2012 are just being sketched out on the back of a napkin or in the margin of a textbook. There are many who have challenged the GOP to “catch-up” in technology. My commitment to them, and to Republicans everywhere, is that the RNC will accept this challenge and we will open our doors to the best and brightest minds. The only limits on our success will be the creativity and imagination of those who accept our invitation.

However, I issue my own challenge to all those who feel the GOP needs a technological revolution: join the ranks of millions of Republican activists and take our message of conservative principles to your street, door to door. For we all must recognize that we cannot simply substitute technology for the critical importance of one-on-one contact, face to face, voter by voter. To achieve a winning majority, we must integrate new technology, good old fashioned shoe leather, principled candidates, and a conservative message. When we synchronize these elements, Republicans win elections.

As a precinct captain in my home of Inez, Kentucky, I’ll be using the latest technology as I go door-to-door. I hope you’ll join me.

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