Ralph Benko

Google’s acquisition of Waze hints at decisive digital technology shifts for the next presidential election. At about the same time, the Republican National Committee has hired young Andy Barkett from Facebook as their new Chief Technology Officer.

Why does Waze matter? For those just returned from the ISS, Waze, which crowdsources mapping, is a big breakthrough. It is going to change how we live. Of far greater significance to business and investors...it will change how we shop.

How is this relevant to politics? Because the more you know about your customers (in politics, voters), the better you can serve them and the more you (and they) will thrive. Facebook, now severely handicapped by its limited mobile capabilities as recently explained in the Atlantic, begins to look like the wave of the past.

The RNC recruited Barkett from, most recently, a brief gig at Facebook. According to the HuffPo:

In 2006, Barkett went to work for Google, where he was a technical program manager for two years. During that same period, he co-founded Greenlight Apparel, a “fair-trade, organic clothing company.”

Barkett left Google in 2008. He was a senior IT management consultant at Taos Mountain Inc. for several months, then a senior director for engineering at Livescribe Inc. for almost two years. In January 2011, Facebook hired Barkett as an engineering manager.

GOP technorati wish Barkett well. The big question being quietly asked has little to do with his qualifications. It is whether Chairman Priebus really will give him the level of authority (and the political heat shield) he needs to get the job done. The Obama campaign gave its ubergeek Harper Reed serious authority. The RNC has a history of undermining the authority of its tech execs. Will Chairman Priebus protect Barkett from meddling by clueless National Committee people (on a majority of whose votes Mr. Priebus’s chairmanship depends)? Barkett’s technical credentials are impeccable.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.