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Obama’s re-election whizkid coming downunder

The 34-year old technology whizkid credited as the mastermind of President Obama’s re-election in his role as campaign Chief Technology Officer, is coming to Australia just as the country continues to gear up for the September federal election.

Harper Reed, a so-called former suburban hacker, will be in Australia in May when he will be a keynote speaker at CeBIT Australia to be held at Darling Harbour in Sydney from 28 to 30 May.

Reed, who describes himself as "an engineer excited about real time, social software and the open source software movement", developed systems that enabled  hundreds of thousands of Obama volunteers to reach out to voters nationwide, building the back-end technology that ran the Obama for America campaign last year.

The outcome of the 2012 US election hinged as much on the technology that made use of mountains of voter-profile information as the big-ticket ad campaigns on TV, and Harper Reed’s role in the collection, management and analysis of Big Data has been widely credited as being a key to Obama’s success.

And, in the time-honoured tradition of American politics and public life, Reed’s success with the Obama campaign has made him a highly sought-after commentator, and his arrival in Australia in the middle of the federal election campaign, and what he has to say about the Obama campaign, will undoubtedly attract a great deal of interest from across the political spectrum.

Jackie Taranto, Managing Director of CeBIT Australia organiser Hannover Fairs Australia, suggests that with Harper Reed’s inclusion in the CeBIT program as a headline guest speaker, it might be wise for both political parties to consider sending their election teams to “hear his words of advice.”

“Harper Reed’s approach to managing Big Data and cloud has seen him recognised as the technology mastermind behind the Obama win, and we look forward to him adding real-world examples of how data is one of your business’ most valuable assets.

“You only have to look at the statistics from the Obama for America campaign when compared to Governor Romney to get a sense of how important technology was to the election outcome.”

Here’s the key statistics from the Obama campaign:

•    President Obama maintained a substantial lead in both Facebook likes and Twitter followers over Governor Romney. By the end of the campaign, Obama had 22.7 million followers and 32.2 million likes, compared to Romney’s 1.8 million followers and 12.1 million likes

•    The Obama campaign passed 1 million donors in October 2012, 46 per cent of whom had not given to the 2008 campaign, and 1 million "conversations" with voters in November

•    The Obama re-election campaign has been lauded for its mastery of Big Data

•    Observers noted that in the last days of the campaign, Obama supporters who used the campaign’s Facebook app received emails with the names and profile photos of friends in swing states. The emails urged supporters to contact their friends and encourage them to vote

•    The Obama campaign’s “persuadability score” tried to capture not just a voter’s current opinion, but how that individual opinion was likely to change after interactions with the campaign

•    Most importantly, Obama’s analysts did not assume that voters who said they were “undecided” were necessarily persuadable—a mistake campaigns have made in the past, according to targeting experts

•    Obama raised US$637.3 million from contributions smaller than US$2500 in comparison to Romney's US$388.1 million from this category of donor

•    56 per cent of Obama's US$637.3 million worth of sub-US$2500 donations was under $200

•    Obama utilised a donation-based crowdfunding strategy to target small donors. He raised US$631 million in individual donations, US$214 million of which were from small donors, which is roughly three times the amount Mitt Romney raised via small donors.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).