Opinion: Tech Winners and Losers From the Democratic National Convention

by Lon Seidman | Sep 9, 2012 7:40pm
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Technology is an essential part of politics these days. Here’s a look at some of the tech successes and failures of the Democratic National Convention:

Winners

Google-After getting beaten up by policy makers, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Federal Trade Commission, Google is stepping up its lobbying efforts. They doubled their lobbying expenditures last year and set up a major presence in both Tampa and Charlotte.

Google set up a pop-up headquarters in both cities, providing exhibits of Google products, a charging station for Android phones (sorry iPhone users), some couches to sit on, and plenty of free snacks. The company also co-hosted a number of panel discussions with Bloomberg TV, including one featuring Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Oddly videos of the panel are not on YouTube - Google’s flagship video product.

Delegates were frequently lined up at two Google+ photo booths located in the convention hall. Photos from the booth were displayed on the big screen inside the Time Warner Arena during the convention.

Verizon Wireless - Despite having tens of thousands of visitors to the city for the big convention, Verizon Wireless managed to keep phone calls and data flowing consistently throughout the week, including the convention’s final night with big-name music stars and President Obama taking the stage.

Verizon says their subscribers made more than 3 million phone calls during the week (a 31 percent increase in usage). There was no word on the amount of data transferred, but the company says over 42 million data connections were made during the convention.

United Health Group - Huh? A health insurance company a tech winner? Sorta. The insurance company decided to take a wellness spin to its promotional activities by dropping a cheap pedometer gadget in the delegate swag bag. I’m not sure about other delegations but the Connecticut delegates were constantly comparing how much mileage they had racked up walking from one event to another.

Perhaps because they were keenly aware of the sensitivities of convention delegates, they managed to omit the “made in” disclaimer on the device. It was stamped with a patent number that links back to a Mr. Kwok Keung Au Yeung of Hong Kong, so we suspect it wasn’t made by American hands.

Apple - Apple didn’t have a presence here, but the Apple logo was everywhere thanks to the rather large number of delegates who decided to use their iPads as cameras during the festivities. One was even spotted on the stage itself as a staffer was photographing Gabby Giffords during her appearance.

An honorable mention goes to clothing retailer Belk for giving away free fake leather iPad cases. Belk made no secret of where their swag was made. In China, of course.

Losers

Facebook - Despite the rather large physical presence of Google at both conventions, Facebook was non-existent once one stepped beyond cyberspace into reality. Perhaps they don’t need to do much given that everyone present already was posting to the social networking service, but we couldn’t find any corporate presence in or around the convention.

Facebook did provide photo booths at the RNC, but ceded them to Google for the DNC.

AT&T - AT&T was a corporate sponsor of the Democratic Convention and also provided WiFi throughout. The service worked great most of the time but as is often the case with AT&T’s wireless infrastructure, everything soon fell apart.

During the primetime speeches on the final night of the convention, AT&T wireless customers seated in the Connecticut delegation were unable to tweet, text, or Facebook their photos because of network capacity issues. The WiFi also denied access to users inside the convention hall.

The most painful thing is watching this video where an AT&T executive says sharing videos and photos will be “effortless” for their customers.

Ouch.

The Obama Campaign - One would think that despite practically inventing digital politics the Obama campaign would love to show off the technology they were using to broadcast their event and engage the public, right?

Wrong.

Campaign officials simply did not respond to frequent in-person, email, and phone requests for information. They did have a pretty cool network operations center set up, but we were soon turned away when a campaign official spotted us talking to one of the techies.


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