Whilst Ros worked on her intervention for the Liberal International Executive Committee meeting, I ventured downtown to attend a seminar on VoteBuilder, the technology that was used by the US Democratic Party to underpin their voter and volunteer engagement programmes.
I'm a bit of a sceptic about technology, especially if it comes from the US. Not because it's bad, or because I don't think it will work here (for a given value of here, that is), but because I never forget about the vast financial disparities between US and European political campaigns. What I need is cheap, flexible technology that I can use to communicate to as many people as I can reach. However, one cannot deny that if technology is all-singing and all-dancing, and my opponents have it, there is a risk that I might lose an otherwise tight contest. And that was one of the key messages conveyed.
I do wonder how much value this offered to delegates from places such as Burundi, where liberal forces fear retribution from the government, or the Democratic Republic of Congo. This type of technology presumes relative freedom and a degree of access to computers that cannot be taken for granted, and that democracy is reasonably secure. I might suggest that in places such as Egypt, the government might take a keen interest in any group gathering expressions of public opinion, especially that unfavourable towards them.
I don't doubt that we'll end up adopting something like VoteBuilder in the years to come. Perhaps EARS will come to resemble it, as it adapts to the new technologies. We probably won't like it much, but we'll learn to love it...