By Tod Newcombe | Features Editor
Both Al Gore and George W. Bush are strongly in favor of technology, electronic government and the Internet. But what happens when one of them becomes president?
Presidential candidates Albert Gore and George W. Bush have put tremendous effort into explaining how their views differ from each other when it comes to lightening rod issues, such as abortion, gun control, taxes and Social Security. But mention the Internet and technology, and you would have to be a seasoned political pro to differentiate between the views of these two candidates.
When Gore and Bush start talking about the digital divide, Internet taxation, privacy, and electronic government, they start sounding the same, according to IT experts who are following the campaign. "Both candidates are close together on IT issues and its hard to differentiate between them," said Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America. "Thats good news for the IT industry. Compare that to other industries, such as gun
manufacturers, where if one candidate wins, they are at a clear advantage and if the other candidate wins, they are at a disadvantage."
Theres a very good reason both candidates are singing off the same song sheet when it comes to the Internet and technology. It gives them the kind of integrity they need to be viewed as leaders with sound economic sense. "Having credibility on economic issues in this election now requires you to be both IT-savvy and IT-friendly," explained Rob Atkinson, director of the new economy project at the Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington-based research group. "I think one of the things that gave Clinton an enormous amount of credibility in 1992 was when Silicon Valley executives came out and endorsed him as opposed to [former president] Bush."
Knowing that, both candidates have taken the time to issue position papers on technology and electronic government. "Both candidates have articulated a vision of e-government," added Harris. "But I dont think both candidates have drilled down into the details of how you do it. The real test for whoever is elected is converting their promises into reality."
With global information and communications technology spending expected to hit $3 trillion in 2003 (World Information Technology & Services Alliance), electronic commerce activity in the U.S. already worth $300 billion annually and growing (Forrester Research) and e-government
spending in the federal, state and local sectors forecast to reach $6.2 billion by 2005 (Gartner Group), presidential candidates know that during an election year, embracing IT is as important as the flag, mom and apple pie.
Yet, its possible that some issues relating to IT and the Internet may flare up as the election goes down to the wire. At the top of the list of potential issues is privacy. Both candidates are fairly close on this one, though Gore advocates an "electronic bill of rights" to protect consumer privacy, while Bush favors letting the market self-regulate itself before the government should step in.
Another potentially hot issue is, surprisingly, electronic or digital government. "Its not a big, big issue," observed Atkinson, "but both candidates have made policy addresses on this topic in recent months."
Bush has called for using the Internet to save federal dollars through online auctions and other types of business-to-business transactions. He has also advocated appointing a government-wide chief information officer and creating a $100 million fund to support interagency e-government initiatives.
Gore has said that he would measure the performance of e-government regularly and rigorously, by putting progress reports on government performance online and by making them interactive, so that citizens can respond on specific issues. The Vice President also advocates using online procurement technologies to save "tens of billions of dollars" and to invest those savings in "even greater efficiency, more innovation