GOP: Technology to Play a Key Role at Convention

Officials say technology will play a bigger role than ever in this year's Republican National Convention.

In contrast to the democrats utilitarian view, IT officials for the Republican National Convention said technology will play a bigger role than ever in this years RNC, which will hit New Yorks Madison Square Garden next month.

"In a lot of ways, this is the first real convention where IT is a prominent piece," said Max Everett, director of information and technology for the convention. Everett worked at the 2000 GOP convention in Philadelphia.

"Back then, we wanted a secure, stable network so many people could use and be dependent on e-mail. Now, in 2004, we want to refine that," Everett said.

Everett said one of his challenges is building an enterprise network in a short time. "Were expecting 15,000 members of the media there to get the presidents message out, and technology is the key way were going to do that," he said. "We dont even get into the Garden until July 19. Thats a short time to go in and do the wiring, equipment and testing. There are 10 floors with activity, and we have six weeks to run our own wiring."

The RNC is hiring local contractors to do the wiring, as well as to man the help desk and network operations. The network will have two nerve centers, one in the Garden and one across the street.

As with the Democratic National Convention, Cisco Systems Inc., IBM and Microsoft Corp. are providing the hardware, software and services. BearingPoint Inc., of McLean, Va., is doing the integration. Nextel Communications Inc., of Reston, Va., is supplying wireless phones and offering on-site services and wireless coverage for attendees.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about how the Democrats are using technology at their national convention.

The RNC was not planning to implement a WLAN (wireless LAN). "At this point, were not looking to do a direct wireless LAN—just basic wireless connectivity," said Everett. The decision ultimately lies with the U.S. Secret Service, which has taken the lead on the design and implementation of the operational security plan.

Delegates will continue to submit votes in the traditional verbal manner this year, but the RNC looks to make other parts of the proceedings more mobile. For example, whips handling motions on the floor may use handheld devices instead of paper notepads.

"One of the hardest parts is that what were trying to build and what weve invested so many sleepless nights in is going to be pulled out after were done," Everett said. "When the president comes to town, well have the network up and running for him. This is one of those things you just cant fail."

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