The pain of digital politics

If only the politicians would realise that computers and the Internet have come out of the world of geeks and into the mainstream

"There's no trick in being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you," Will Rogers famously said. How can you argue with that in an election year!

Without a doubt those of us who are following politics in Australia are provided with a form of entertainment with a broad scope. Staying informed about Australian politics has now been made easier thanks to a new Web page and tools recently launched by Google Australia. They allow Australian voters to have a look at the parties, candidates, and election issues at one location 24 hours a day. This site is claimed to be a world first and was developed here in Australia. Google Australia's head of engineering, Alan Noble, said: "the site should show how the Internet could play a substantive role in providing information and encouraging debate".

Meanwhile, over at Hill & Knowlton another Noble, this time Stephen, director of digital services, announced the firm's Election Predictor. Although he can't guarantee it will win any election night bets for you, he reckons it will spice up a few dinner party arguments or help answer 'what if' questions for some election junkies.

It's fun to sit around and talk about the election campaign (or should it be cam-pain) but let me ask you: if you had to choose between spending time being informed on the parties' issues and listening to pollies' rants or watching the footy or comedy hour, which would you choose?

It has been noticeable that in this rapidly changing world no politicians have spoken about an Innovation Agenda built on public/private partnerships that harness all this technology and promote ICT opportunities that would make our governments more open, responsive, and efficient; that would transform industries and in particular our healthcare system; and that would establish longer term national goals for the Australian ICT industry. Is this asking too much?

IT improves our productivity and offers life-enhancing applications, such as education technology, advanced medical diagnostics, and e government. Australia must continue to tap into the transformations that IT will bring about in organisations in a vast array of industries. Politicians don't have a sound grasp of technology issues -- but then politicians don't necessarily have a profound grasp on a lot of issues until they arise. They rely on advisers for information.

Maybe through the embracing of the new media -- such as the Internet, e-mail, blogging, and social networking sites such as YouTube -- politicians may start to realise that computers and the Internet have come out of the world of geeks and into the mainstream. The battle lines are drawn and the issues are now both serious and complex.

Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report

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