Perhaps the greatest challenge of modern life in the second decade of the 21st Century is data and information management. While problems with basic sanitation, food, healthcare, and housing exist throughout the developing world, for most of the middle class in the developed world each day, from morning to night, involves processing a steadily increasing torrent of information delivered by an ever-increasing number of electronic devices—from Facebook wall posts to emails to news bulletins to tweets to iPhone pictures to YouTube videos to PowerPoints and Word documents. Individuals struggle with it; corporations struggle with it; governments struggle with it.
This flow of information, as crushing as may appear to those buried daily under it, is considered so critical to modern life that the United Nations declared Internet access this year a basic human right, stating that with rare exceptions, an attempt to disconnect people from the web is a violation of international law. “There should be as little restriction as possible to the flow of information via the Internet,” the U.N. wrote in June.
Yet a single human being—even huge teams of people—couldn’t hope to consume even a tiny amount of the daily torrent. There are 120 million tweets published a day; 35 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each minute; and each month sees 11 million articles on Wikipedia edited. Figuring out to find important data and news, then mark, save, and distribute that critical information in a timely manner will increasingly be a matter of life and death for many corporations and governments.
In few areas is this truer than in political campaigns—where news cycles have evaporated, where every minute of every day can go viral in real-time, and where technology allows ever-more refined targeting of voting blocs and contacts. Candidates sink or swim based on how well they manage news and databases.
Obama for America, the freshman Illinois senator’s 2008 presidential campaign, understood this innately. He would have lost any other election. Here was a junior, unknown politician running against the best established, most powerful, and well-financed Democratic machine in modern history—the Clinton family. So how did a man just four years removed from the Illinois State Senate catapult himself to the White House in a landslide where he defeated two of politics best-known brands, Hillary Clinton and John McCain? How did he pull off a staggering margin of nearly 200 electoral votes and 8.5 million popular votes and win nine states George W. Bush took in 2004?
The answer is, simply, Barack Obama understood that since the last open presidential election in 2000, the technological revolution that has changed every aspect of American life had fundamentally realigned the power dynamic in politics as well. So while Hillary Clinton and John McCain set out to run the last campaign all over again, Obama forged ahead and ran the first campaign of the 21st Century.
I’ll be talking about these trends and the unique challenges the Obama campaign faced in 2008—and how they’re continuing to reshape politics today—during next week’s session at this year’s ARMA International Conference and Expo. Please join me at the Future of RIM Forum, hosted by Iron Mountain’s Chairman and CEO, Richard Reese on Tuesday, October 18th, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm. Hope to see you there!
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