Some learned political commentators predict the 2016 presidential will be the “Snapchat Election” or the “Periscope Election.” Others dismiss this, noting that digital-focused grassroots organizing and voter outreach will be the differentiator. And still others say the factor that defines the winning campaign will be how it mobilizes get-out-the-vote operations using smartphones and tablets in key battleground states.
From our perspective, they could all be right. After all, each of these digital tools that are commonplace in both our lives and, by extension, our elections, have the potential to make the difference. The shared quality of all these predictions is something we at Qualcomm have known since our founding thirty years ago: mobile is a transformative technology.
Think about the 1976 presidential campaign for a moment. TV ads, door-to-door canvassing, and party activists were about the only game in town. Fast-forward forty years and consider how radically different the world is today – and not just for politics. At the core of this change is the mobile revolution. How we communicate, access information, share our opinions and connect with groups large and small anywhere and anytime – all this has been enabled by mobile.
When we first developed the wireless technologies aimed at democratizing mobile communications, one of our founders, Dr. Irwin Jacobs, had the radical idea that everyone in the world would have their own phone number. This idea is the basis for individual connectivity, access to information, and a level of interactivity that was far-fetched a generation ago but is the norm today.
Qualcomm’s role – creating the chipsets and modems in many smartphones and inventing many of the technologies that make data transfer, video streaming and GPS navigation wireless – has helped fuel this mobile revolution and put the “smart” in smartphone. We are proud that our innovations and industry partnerships have empowered and connected billions of people around the world.
This is what drives us to continually invest in research to come up with the next generation of technologies, and the generation after that, to keep the mobile revolution going. We patent and share with our partners the inventions and technologies that our research creates, helping manufacturers build devices that integrate seamlessly across networks and platforms, making highly complicated systems accessible to users at all levels of understanding.
Which leads us back to the presidential election and the impact of the overall mobile ecosystem on politics. Think for a moment about how mobile has changed how we consume news and follow current events, how campaigns register voters, how we share and motivate our friends to act, and how candidates directly engage the entire country. It is hard to predict exactly which new means of mobile connectivity will influence next year’s election most. The only certainty is that the political chattering classes will latch on to this new technology as soon as it emerges, and then pivot to the next new hot mobile tech when that catches fire.
We are a perpetually connected nation, better informed, more tuned in to our candidates, and equipped in exponentially increased ways to assure our voices and the voices of like-minded voters are heard in Washington and around the nation.
While we do not know who will rise to the top in this crowded campaign environment, there is at least one certainty: mobile technology is now a fully integrated part of our democracy and the campaign that leverages it most effectively to turn out their voters will likely win.
Nate Tibbits is Senior Vice President for Government Affairs at Qualcomm.