SAN FRANCISCO—The 2008 Barack Obama campaign saw an innovative use of digital technology. This year’s re-election drive raises the bar, both technologically and people-wise, with the direct involvement of the tech community, including those from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Four years ago, the Obama campaign spearheaded pioneering efforts in utilizing technology, particularly social media, in order to mobilize people and dollars.
As a result, the campaign not only galvanized the participation of a record number of youth who turned up as volunteers and voters, but it also generated an unprecedented $750 million in campaign funds via small online donations, more than seven times as much as the Republican contender.
Mobile technology is defining the wave of innovation for this year’s campaigns, according to a report by the Brookings Institution. The candidates are working hard to utilize mobile ads, video, web links, and apps for voter outreach, field organizing, and fundraising.
Experts see the Obama camp ahead of the curve once again in terms of data management prowess, with some predicting that this advantage could decide a close election, Politico reports.
The effectiveness of Obama campaign data management has largely been attributed to the grass-roots efforts the campaign evolved from five years ago.
Technology for Obama (T4O) is a new campaign initiative that utilizes advanced technology and can better tap into the pool of supporters.
Organized nationwide, but mainly rooted in the Bay Area and New York City, T4O seeks to “activate an influential fundraising and operational group from the broad technology community,” its website states.
Short video clips featuring Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, Craig Newmark, CEO of Craigslist, and others, explained why Obama “gets innovation.”
Technology for Obama hosted a debate-watching party at the Temple Nightclub Monday for the Bay Area tech community and others who are interested.
Cheryl Contee, who attended the party, is co-founder of the popular political blog Jack and Jill Politics and partner at Fission Strategy, a tech company specializing in social media support for nonprofits.
Contee calls herself a “T4O influencer,” hinting at the contribution she is making to the Obama campaign.
Via her network of followers, she is able to influence the conversation around election issues and mobilize politically active people around the country, and thus help “get more people excited.”
Besides connecting peers within an affinity group, T4O calls upon tech folks to donate not just money, but also time.
“Technologists can bring a whole new set of skills” to the campaign, Contee said.
Skills like programming and design are welcomed at the campaign headquarters, said Patricia Reilly, a campaign volunteer who helped organized the event.
She is satisfied with what the initiative has delivered so far.
“Reaching out and engaging people who are specifically connected to the technology fields and social media or engineering is a smart strategy that has delivered huge dividends for the campaign,” said Reilly.
For Contee, her engagement in T4O is more than just taking part in a re-election campaign. “It’s about the future of our economy. We represent that,” she said.
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