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Will mobile technology have its day in glory with US elections?

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So, finally, it is Election Day here in US. After almost two years of campaigning we will see the results tonight. It is a historic election which ever candidate wins. However, it is also a day of reckoning for technology, especially mobile technology. Will we see a lot of technical glitches like the 2000 & 2004 elections? Answer to that is most likely. In fact, even as I write this, there are reports of equipment failure.

We have already seen the power of the web being successfully used by both candidates, perhaps more effectively by Democrat Barack Obama’s campaign. The web has been successful in helping Obama’s campaign avoid public financing and break all fundraising records. It has also helped him build a formidible grass-roots movement. It may even help him govern by allowing him to communicate directly to the public, much like Franklin Roosvelt did with his fire-side, radio talks during Depression. His campaign has also uploaded several YouTube videos which have been watched 92 million times. Acording to TechPresident.com, a website that tracks technology use in presidential campaigns, his Facebook page has 2 million followers and his campaign has managed to get 8 million supporters through various social media sites. Compared to that McCain’s campaign has been relatively tepid in using social media. McCain managed to raise $217 million via the web compared to Obama’s haul of $600 million. McCain has 560,000 followers on Facebook and his YouTube videos have been seen only a third of Obama’s videos.

Earlier in the summer, Obama started organizing his text messaging campaign by asking supporters to sign up for text messages and he promised them that they would be the first to know his VP nominee. In that instant, the supporters were disappointed because traditional news media scooped them and there were some bungling on part of the campaign which resulted in supporters getting the message hours after the VP pick was known. However, it resulted in about 3 million supporters signing up. Since then he has constantly kept in touch with these supporters (I know as I am one of the subscribers), whether it be to remind voters to watch the Democratic convention, or the debates or to take advantage of early voting where possible or to ask for volunteers to make calls for his campaign. Compared to that, McCain does not have a text messaging campaign at all. On Oct 2, Obama campaign unveiled their iPhone applications which among other things helps users find contacts in battleground states that they can then call to ask them to vote for Obama.

Today though is mobile technology’s day to shine. Obama’s campaign can use this to get the vote out. The campaign has already sent out messages to inform the subscribers nationwide of their respective polling hours. I don’t live in a battleground state, so I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine that they would have already sent out several messages to get his supporters to not only vote, but also to encourage others to vote.

We are already hearing huge turnout effort. However, it is too early to get a sense of how effective mobile campaign was for the Obama campaign. I truly believe that today’s election is a watershed moment for mobile technology in USA. A few years back, American Idol got text messaging into the US consciousness. Today’s election will showcase the power of this technology. Today we will see if the technological divide between the two campaigns will set a new course of history or whether it will become a footnote in history.

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Written by dvdand

November 4, 2008 at 10:35 am

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