James Purser, a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) supporter, committee member for Linux Australia, and ICT consultant, is running for the Senate in the next federal election as an independent for New South Wales. With limited resources, Purser's campaign is fueled by the power of Linux and the Internet, which he is using to build networks and communicate with the public. Purser spends most of his time promoting Open Source Software, but his senate campaign is bigger and broader than technology.
Although he will be pushing for use of open standards in government, and debating ISP level content filtering and broadband availability, he will also be making noises about water management, power generation and Indigenous affairs. Purser is definitely not short of issues to care about, and was happy to tell Computerworld all about it:
You say you want to run for the Senate because the major parties do not represent you and that issues such as climate change, industrial relations and foreign policy are being led by short sighted, short term focused people. Why and how will you be any different?
For a long time now, we have been conditioned by our electoral process to expect even major reforms to be completed by the end of the three year political term. This has encouraged our political leaders to play the short term game, so we get policies and programs which fit neatly into the electoral cycle, rather than those that take a more responsible, long term view.
I believe we should take a new approach. We need a vision for this nation, one that isn't limited by three or five-year plans. Instead we need to look twenty or thirty years in the future. Where is the country going to be, and where should it be? I recognise that for many people looking that far ahead may be unrealistic, however, I believe that if we don't, then we, and our children are going to pay the price.
How will you use technology, Linux and the Internet in your election campaign?
For an unknown potential candidate with limited resources, there is a surprising amount of technology available to help me get my message out. The key is learning how to use that technology to achieve your aims.
The central technology, is of course the Internet. At the most basic level you can setup a Web site and start sharing out links hoping to build a network of supporters online who can then start a word of mouth campaign. However, there are a range of other avenues to take as well. The opportunities that the Internet offers for building true community/government interaction are almost endless. So-called "web2.0" sites such as Facebook, YouTube and MySpace allow you to quickly build up that network.
Personally I have a website (http://jamespurser.com.au) and in addition to that I have set up an account under Facebook, and I have an account under YouTube. I have also setup a VOIP account so that people can call me from Sydney for the price of a local call. If I could get a VOIP number for major towns in NSW I would.
I use Linux in my everyday life, and develop my policies on my laptop running Linux, design election material such as pamphlets and posters using Linux and other Open Source tools such as Inkscape and the Gimp.
Is there a unique way that you plan to utilise technology in your campaign?
I plan on doing a lot of campaigning via the Internet. One method I'm putting the finishing touches on is "Virtual Townhalls". With the spread of video telephony via packages such as Skype and the various IM clients, it would be quite possible to organise meetings with different groups in geographically diverse locations. The way I have envisaged the Virtual Townhall meetings is quite simple. I can set up with a webcam and a microphone on one end and on the other end the same setup can be used for a living room, meeting hall or shed out the back. The people on the other end can then ask me questions or tell me about their concerns and I can talk directly to them. The call itself is free and it means that instead of being restricted by geography, I can talk to people all over the state.
This is what technology can offer us. A senator by definition has the largest "seat" to represent, an entire state. If he or she hopes to claim to truly know what his or her constituents wishes are and what the issues are, the technology is now available to allow the senator to touch bases with constituents in all locations in a cost effective manner. This is just one way that we can tap into the potential of the internet to draw people into the process of government and give them more real input into what the Government does.