Democracy Online Project
Austin - The Democracy Online Project Committee, a group of politicians and professors gathering ideas about politics on the web, held their last of three meetings Wednesday, June 28, 2000, in Austin, Texas in the State Capitol building. Company presidents, CEOs, politicians, and professors lined the table. They were meeting to discuss the part that high tech businesses play in community politics and the civic involvement in a high tech city such as Austin.
Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston opened the meeting by welcoming the other committee members-most of whom were from the Northeast. He said he hoped they were enjoying the Texas weather and noted a cold front had blown through which cooled off the temperature to 103 degrees.
Most of the techies at the table talked about the coolness of the digital age, but they also talked about the dark side of the boom where the money generated by high tech businesses forces prices to go sky high.
Robin Rather, president of Mindwave Research, argued the importance of high tech businesses in the community. She explained that high tech businesses contribute to the economy, but they should also do their part to protect the environment.
Mary Beth Rogers, President and CEO of KLRU-TV in Austin, spoke about the importance of public television in politics. She gave examples of how public television bridges the gap between the high tech businesses and politicians. Public television also gets the views of the people to the politicians.
Gary Chapman from UT-Austin said because there was a shortage of workers in the industry, that they could pick where they want to work. As a result, the techies look for cities such as Boston, Austin and San Francisco, places that are rich in culture and have attractions like a cool music scene, plenty of nightlife and great sports teams.
Jason Fellman, President of FG SQUARED owns a small web based company that designs websites. He pointed out that the Internet lacks a true place for politics online, a place where politicians can post their views, people can discuss issues, young voters can learn how to register, and all voters can get general information about elections. He noted that lowest turn out in voters is in the eighteen to twenty-four year age bracket. Young voters make up nine percent of the population, but twenty-three percent of all web users. If there was a website with voting information on it, more young people might become involved in the voting process.
High tech companies play a major role in the community; they also have a major impact on the politics in their communities. The witnesses said they should make it a positive impact and offer their services in the designing of a place for politics to live on the web, a place where voters of all ages can go to learn and discuss issues and political views, and where even people not eligible to vote can go to learn about the voting process.