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Understanding 'off-the-shelf' political technology

Political Technology

When you are going to buy a new suit, which is more important? The quality of the suit or the fit?

In political technology terms, the answer often appears to be the "fit". We routinely hear of political organizations that are developing their own tech ‘in-house’, or they have their own systems that they are building. This is the prioritization of ‘fit’ over the suit itself. In other words, everyone thinks that they need to build something bespoke for their specific needs which are, of course, unlike any other organization. However, we usually hear back from these people within a number of months when they realize that the reality of building and maintaining things like voter databases, mobile outreach tools, surveys, emails, social media integration can be a bloody nightmare!

Political Campaign Variations

The fact is that political technology does the same thing in nearly every one of the 40+ countries that we currently work in. What it needs to do is provide a stable repository for voter information and give the political staff the tools they need to reach out to voters and communicate with them in an intelligent way. Yes, there are variations in emphasis from territory to territory. In Germany, data privacy is paramount, and in the US, messaging and GOTV are the key pieces of functionality. What politicians don’t seem to realize is that the similarities between what they do and what their competitors do far outweigh the differences.

In the past few decades, there has been a huge change in the technology employed in almost every industry in the world. Think about the difference in the way cars are built in 1980 versus now, or even the way office workers communicate now compared to then. The way political campaigning is done however has remained almost exactly the same in that period. That is all set to change though in the coming years with a raft of new tech coming on board to digitize and strengthen processes for political organizations and for voters. Political parties are not software companies any more than private businesses are social media companies. It is now high-time that political parties get the message that the ‘off-the-shelf’ suit fits pretty good as well.

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