Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Productivity in a 16-Hour Day

One of the oddities of elections is that election day is usually a great day to get things done.

Maybe it's because we're here for about 16 hours and a 16-hour day simply is more productive than a typical day.  Another reason, though, is that we leave the calendar as open as possible, free from meetings, to be ready to respond to any issue.  When issues don't arise, there is a large block of free time that can be put to good use.

The day after the election is usually busier, particularly if there are close races that could be decided by provisional ballots.  Usually, some unhappy voters call on election day but most tend to call the day after.

Election days, then, become a good day for a new thing on Election Diary.  I've resisted having posts that are a collection of smaller ideas, sort of a compendium of things, a "This and That," "Election Notes," or "Etcetera" kind of thing.

If I have those things, I will begin putting them into a Tuesday post, maybe on an election day or just a random Tuesday, but always on a Tuesday.

One such random item comes from the Wall Street Journal today and relates to a comment I made during the ITIF Elections and Disabilities conference last week.

If the concept of "Bring Your Own Voting Machine," that I first described last month here takes off, a natural extension of that is that your mobile device can become your portal to getting your election information, your election preferences (such as type size on your ballot), and the ballot-rendering device itself.

A natural question involves the equivalent of the digital divide--will those without data-enabled phones be disadvantaged? 

We're looking well into the future with this, at least 3-5 years.  The smartphone and tablet adoption rate will be well over 70 percent by then.

I think the bigger divide is the cost of the data service itself.  Many persons who have smartphones don't have unlimited data, and with spectrum squeezes, we can expect the price of data service to increase.  Someone may have a smartphone, but use it mostly with wi-fi and therefore they wouldn't engage as much when mobile.

I suggested that there could be some sort of public service data that was free, much the way calls to 9-1-1 are free.  Data using a particular app on the phone or to specific websites could be free.

At least one person didn't agree that this was an issue. 

As People's Exhibit A to my point of view, however, I bring you an article in today's Wall Street Journal.

AT&T is considering billing Application Makers for the data their apps generate. 

Personally, I think this is crazy because it's akin to Time Warner billing ESPN for the number of viewers who watch a particular game.  Users already pay AT&T for the access to the apps.

It shows, though, that there is a need to better recover the cost of capital to build out the data networks.  Sprint, for instance, (where I worked for nearly 20 years) has an overwhelming capital expense number in front of it in order to provide higher-speed data service.

John Donovan, AT&T's chief technology officer, discussed this during an interview at the Mobile World Congress.  John, as a consultant with Deloitte, worked with me on Sprint's wholesale strategy, and first and foremost, he's a futurist.  I'm sure this was more thinking out loud than a policy statement.

But, telecommunication carriers are the epitome of "Me-Too" companies.  If this makes sense to AT&T, it will make sense to the others.  And, one way they can sell this concept to the Federal Communications Commission is to have public service apps free from these data costs.

John says as much in the interview, comparing some apps to 800 numbers where the data is free.

There's a window, here, I think for something central to elections, like the Voting Info Project to own the "800 app" for elections.

We do this on election night.  Somehow, showing everyone how we run around checking things in provides some comfort that things are moving along.  The link will be posted on election nights on the Johnson County Election Office website.  The attached picture is from the computer we have in the warehouse, so people know how to get out of the view if they need to sneeze.