Digitally Scoring the Presidential Debates

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Last night, neither candidate shared a realistic vision for getting the economy back on its feet.  Because the only way we have a chance of recovery is through innovation. And that's something, at least historically, the US has done very, very well.

How We Got Here
Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's failed monetary policy led to low interest rates, cheap money and an unsustainable spike in housing prices. Unfortunately, the housing crash not only put millions of homeowners in a terrible financial position, it also created millions of unskilled construction, retail and finance jobs.  When new home construction stalled and credit seized that unskilled workforce became unemployed.

Where We Are Now
One of every four young adults in the US is a high school drop out. During the housing boom, these young Americans were the construction and retail work force. And while workers over 50 in this country are among the most educated in the world, their knowledge is from the analog era, much of which has been made obsolete.

Revitalizing the American, and in turn global, economy will not occur by luring manufacturing jobs back from China. As the late, great Steve Jobs said, “Those jobs aren't coming back.”

Our only hope is in innovating ourselves out of this economic malaise.  Education spurs innovation. Those who truly understand how digital technology can be used to innovate are best positioned to lead us out of this economic funk.

What We Need to Hear
As we have seen in Scandinavia, when the government sponsors reliable, cheap high-speed broadband internet access and secondary education, people innovate themselves into all kinds of new opportunities. Skype, Spotify and Path are all Swedish innovations.

But big business has become so powerful in the US that the public agenda often takes a back seat.

Consider telecommunications services in the US.  If your telecomm provider can't deliver the services you've contracted, and you withhold payment until the service is remedied, you risk being reported to a credit bureau for delinquency, which in turns, drives up your borrowing costs. The deck is stacked against the little guy, and that's a problem.

What we need now is a president willing to create an environment where big business cannot racketeer, where reliable, high-speed broadband is cheap and where everyone has a chance to acquire digital, not just analog, job skills.

The overwhelming majority of consumers expect to be able to do business with organizations online.  But most corporate websites are a brick wall, with Priority Passfew or no interactive features, and that's because these organizations don't have the skill to implement these innovations.  Demand for digital job skills outstrips supply.

Sunday at SFO I checked my mobile and learned that the United Airlines frequent flyer lounge accepted my Priority Pass card. But when I tried to actually enter, I was turned away. “We no longer take that,” I was told. When I tweeted, here's what I was told.

Fifteen days later, this Priority Pass website is still out of date. And I'm sure they're not alone. If you're reading this, chances are your website's out of date too! And it's probably because you don't have the skills to change it yourself.

— EricSchwartzman (@ericschwartzman) October 15, 2012

In the world of social marketing, only a dismal 12% of organizations employ these emerging channels effectively, according to Harvard Business Review.  Imagine how our economy would grow if our unskilled work force acquired the skills to become information workers. Manufacturing is not the answer. Building public works, while necessary, is not a long term fix either. Innovation is!  Because innovation improves productivity, which increases GDP and improves quality of life.

In my opinion, neither candidate articulated a vision for this kind of recovery, and that disappoints me.

What I'm Doing About It
Not everyone can afford to fly to a conference to attend a Social Media Bootcamp. I'm making social media training available online for fraction of what it costs in the real world by offering a half-price bundle of online social media training classes that teach key concepts, best practices as well as the actual mechanics of how to use social media for business applications.

But we're still going to need a level playing field to ensure healthy competition between small and big business and we're still going to need to bring the price and availability of truly high speed internet access down.

The level of economic growth we need will not be won through taxation strategy, manufacturing jobs or improving public works. It will be won through the web, a cyberverse where we've really only just scratched the service for delivering significant gains in perpetuity.

What will YOU do help us get there?

Note: This blog post was inspired, and many of the statistics were borrowed, from today's column in the New York Times by foreign affairs corespondent Thomas Friedman.

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