Election 2008: Issues

McCain's Technology Outlook

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John McCain has said he rarely uses e-mail or the Internet. During the Republican primary, he referred to himself as computer illiterate. And earlier this month, he told The New York Times that he depends on his wife and staff to show him Web sites.

Michael Powell, a technology adviser to McCain's campaign, says despite the Republican presidential candidate's reluctance to use technology on a personal basis, he "understands technology very well" from his time as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology.

"The president of the United States doesn't invent anything, he doesn't make a business model, he doesn't go on Facebook. But he does have to create the economic and social conditions for those things to thrive. And I think [McCain] has a lot of experience with that through his tenure in the Congress," says Powell, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Technology hasn't been the main focus of discussion on the campaign trail. Powell tells NPR's Michele Norris that the campaign of McCain's Democratic rival, Barack Obama, has "much greater faith in government's role to be a steward of managing economic conditions and managing competitive choices." McCain, he says, has a less "intrusive" philosophy.

McCain has proposed a program to provide tax and financial benefits for companies that provide broadband services to low-income and rural users, Powell says. "It may require some government assistance, either through financial subsidy policy or through other kinds of creative tools, like community or municipal broadband services."

Obama has suggested that as president, he would appoint a technology czar. Powell says McCain's vision goes beyond having "a top tech guy sitting over at the White House." The real key for McCain, Powell says, is to hire more people with technology experience throughout the government who can envision technology solutions for education, health care, homeland security and other issues.

McCain, he says, hopes to create momentum in all branches of government to foster "a range of e-government initiatives." That would include making more government services available online and hiring people with substantial tech experience to "populate throughout the government."

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