The Republican National Committee is jumping on board the data-mining trend, which was so successful in President Barack Obama’s re-election, developing a new technology department starting with the hiring of the GOP’s first Chief Technology Officer.
Although some might have considered the Obama’ campaign’s extensive data-mining effort “very creepy” at the time, the success of the tech and analytics team behind the effort, lead by the campaign’s Chief Technology Officer Harper Reed, was hailed by many.
The GOP knew it would have to go down this road too in order to be successful in future elections, releasing a report earlier this year announcing its restructuring to have a tech focus.
“To win campaigns, the GOP needs better data, better access to data, and better tools to make the most of that data,” the GOP’s report released earlier this year stated, according to Mashable. “Although the RNC has always made significant investment in data, there is significant remaining work to do to ensure that our data is the best it can be.”
The RNC announced Tuesday hiring of former Facebook engineer Andy Barkett to lead this program.
“I am excited to announce that Andy Barkett will be leading the effort to expand our data and digital capabilities as our Chief Technology Officer,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “I am confident that with Andy’s experience and our continued efforts to build meaningful relationships with experts in Silicon Valley, we’ll see the changes to this part of our operation that we all agree are both important and necessary to winning elections in the future.”
At Facebook, Barkett managed engineering teams responsible for mobile infrastructure, messaging, advertisements, newsfeeds, platforms and payments. He also worked for Google, Livescribe and Nvidia.
“It’s essential that the Republican Party has the resources to drive voter turnout as we look toward the elections of 2014, 2016 and beyond,” Barkett said in a statement. “Silicon Valley welcomes the party’s efforts to be more creative and innovative, and I look forward to helping the party accomplish these goals.”
In March, Preibus said the overhauled data infrastructure program would be in place for 2014 and 2016 elections to give the GOP “a completely revitalized approach to campaign mechanics and technology.”
The RNC’s news comes as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul just finished a visit in the Silicon Valley last week where he toured tech and research giants, emphasizing the importance of the industry and innovation for the country’s future.
In a recent op-ed to the San Jose Mercury News, Paul wrote of his trip saying it only reenforced his belief that “Internet freedom must be preserved and enhanced, and the dynamic technology sector must be freed as much as possible from the grip of government.”
After meeting several Silicon Valley stakeholders, Paul told Tech Crunch his general perception is that “libertarian-style Republicans would do better out here” — in California — “and that Bush Republicans haven’t been doing well out here in a long time.”