This year's presidential election has brought with it a season of frustration for information technology managers, who say the candidates' platforms aren't telling them enough about what they would do as president regarding key issues that affect IT.
"Neither of [the candidates] really addresses the issues that I have to live in everyday," said Michael Smith, information systems director at Krack Corp., a maker of industrial refrigeration systems in Addison, Ill. "What do they really think about e-commerce and e-business and all the rest of those issues?"
Other topics IT managers said they would like more details about include the candidates' approaches to privacy, information security, the thorny issue of Internet tax collection by remote sellers and high-tech labor issues.
The privacy issue is "very important to all of us in the retail space," but there is a "cloud of haze" over both campaigns' approach to IT issues, said Mike Matheny, IT director at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., a Lebanon, Tenn.-based retail and restaurant chain.
Democratic candidate Vice President Al Gore and Republican Texas Gov. George W.
Bush must explain how they plan to address workforce readiness and the so-called digital divide, issues both candidates said are important to them, said Thomas Conarty, CIO and a senior vice president at Bethlehem Steel Corp.
"The digital divide issue has a lot to do with how our shop-floor, high-school-educated worker is going to be able to embrace technology," said Conarty. "If that doesn't happen, I'm going to have to spend much more time providing fundamental education to entry-level employees just to get our work done."
Although both candidates have called for raising the H-1B visa cap, Conarty said he wonders what their specific plans are. If his Bethlehem, Pa.-based company can't use H-1B visas to hire foreign workers, he said, it will to turn to offshore software development.
But one political expert, Wade Randlett, co-founder of the Technology Network, a bipartisan political action group in Silicon Valley, said some issues, such as privacy and taxation, are so ill-defined that not even privacy advocates are in agreement.
"To try to flesh out these very difficult things in the middle of a presidential campaign is a disaster waiting to happen," said Randlett, who is also vice president of Red Gorilla, a business application company in San Francisco.
A Democratic campaign official who asked to remain anonymous said that Gore has been specific on issues and has a record that includes attempts to strengthen safeguards on medical and financial data. Gore has also supported self-regulation for the e-commerce industry, the official said.
A Bush campaign technology adviser said he believes there's fundamentally little difference in the approach both parties are taking regarding high-tech issues.