Last night's remarkable Obama victory promises a fresh start and real change on a host of critically important issues. Some may speculate about what (if any) effect the change in administration will have for tech policy. CNET examines the question from a U.S. perspective; from a Canadian perspective, I would point to three issues.
The tech effect on politics. As has been well-documented, Obama's campaign used the Internet, social networks, and new technology to galvanize support, generate millions in donations, and ultimately attract millions of new, younger voters. As the Canadian political parties look at declining voter turnout numbers, the path to a majority/change in government may lie not in grabbing votes from other parties, but rather in targeting the 41 percent of eligible Canadian voters (many of whom are younger) who did not vote at all with policies that speak to their concerns.
Copyright. The change in administration is unlikely to dramatically alter U.S. policy on copyright (the DMCA was passed by President Clinton), which suggests that the U.S. pressure on Canada for reform will continue as will support for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. What the change in administration may do, however, is buy a bit of time. The need to appoint a new U.S. ambassador, Commerce Secretary, USTR Secretary, etc. means that intellectual property will not be a front burner issue until the spring 2009 at the earliest.
Telecom. Obama seems likely to accelerate change that is already happening in the United States around issues such as net neutrality, open networks, and broadband access. The FCC has been shifting in this direction for some time (it approved a white spaces proposal yesterday) and Obama put it at the top of his list of tech policy concerns. While this will not result in political pressure on Canada, it will point to a Canadian telecom framework that could quickly fall behind the U.S., thereby undermining innovation and competitiveness. By moving forcefully toward preserving net neutrality in the U.S., Obama may indirectly encourage similar reforms in Canada.