Are House Republicans getting ahead of the game when it comes to technology? Nancy Scola at TechPresident seems to think so. She writes that “Again and again, Hill Republicans are proving themselves more creative,
more ambitious, and more forward-looking than Hill Democrats when it
comes to the web.”
Scola specifically points to the recent announcement that GOP.gov would have an API to enable tech-savvy Internet types to extract data from the web site to include in online or offline applications and web sites.
Of course, GOP.gov has actually been at the leading edge of political technology before. Nearly a decade ago I was hired by the House Republican Conference as a consultant to help construct a small part of the early innovation in the form of XML feeds to enable other members or even outside organizations to consume press releases and other data and re-display it. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich was a driving force behind technology adoption in Congress — by Republicans as well as the body as a whole — and in many ways some of the efforts he spawned were almost too far ahead of their time.
In those days, nobody was using RSS and there were no simple tools for capturing and re-using the XML data, so it required custom programming for anyone who wanted to use it. While that was a great full employment program for me and a few other consultants who understood the guts of the GOP.gov XML, it wasn’t a recipe for widespread adoption.
Today, the tools are more readily available and people who can work with API’s, XML, RSS, and other sharing technologies are a dime a dozen.