Technology, not money could decide the US election

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Chanticleer gained further insights from Smith during an interview in his office located on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, in October. The incredibly well-connected executive revealed Trump’s team used Microsoft’s cloud product, Azure, to get an edge on the Democrats.

Microsoft president Brad Smith says no one in 2016 thought the Trump presidential campaign would have a better technology strategy than Hilary Clinton.  Getty Images

In his book, Smith said the Democrats told him they thought they had the best data analysis capabilities and lost the election despite that.

The Republicans told Smith the key to their success was employing data scientists from the University of Michigan and the Virginia Department of Transportation to “build new algorithms for the world of politics”.

The other big advantage the Republicans had over the Democrats was access to as many data sets as possible.

From this information, they identified 14 million Republicans who said they did not like Trump. They communicated to these people on Facebook on topics the data said were likely to be important to them.

In the final 10 days of the election, the Republicans focused their campaign efforts on 700,000 people in key battleground states who the team believed were likely to vote for Trump if they went to the polls. They put all their energy into persuading this group to turn out, Smith said.

Priebus was convinced the Trump campaign had better data analytics and this allowed the team to know it was winning Michigan and Wisconsin before the Clinton campaign knew.

In his interview with The Australian Financial Review, Smith said politics has always been about reaching individuals and connecting with them about the issues that they care about.

“The only way you can reach everyone, one person at a time, is with the data that tells you what each person cares about, and then you can tailor your message,” he said.

“I think politics in the 21st century is really about combining what has always been important about human nature, with the ability to connect with human beings with the power of data, and technology, and so then you get to the question of does that cost money? Well, yes, of course it does.

“Does that mean that it will inevitably favour the campaigns with the largest treasure chest? Not necessarily. That was one of the lessons of the 2016 campaign. No campaign was better financed, in terms of money, than Hillary Clinton’s and so you need to be smart.

“I mean, the good news, this is the good news about technology that speaks not just to the world of politics, but to the world in everything – if you use the platforms that are there, for the things that you want to rely on and get the economic efficiencies that come from, you can then focus your mind on where you really want to differentiate yourself from someone else.

“What can you do that no one else can? And so what the Trump campaign did was use their platform capability of the Republican National Committee and off-the-shelf cloud services. And in this case, the RNC used Azure.”

Smith said he did not mention the Trump campaign’s use of Azure in his book because “I didn’t really want to make it about competitiveness because we really need to talk about the concept, and I didn’t want to say, you know, this is the way it works”.

“And, by the way, I don’t think that’s necessarily an area where Azure would have been different than AWS (Amazon Web Services). It was more how much do you try and build yourself, your own platform, versus using what was commercially available?

“And then, they were very smart about being differentiated, and they were able to be smart and leapfrog. Yet no one in the summer of 2016 thought that the Trump campaign was going to go with a technology strategy better than the Clinton campaign. No one.

“In part it was, I mean, how could it? They didn’t have as much money, they hadn’t been working as long, they didn’t have the leading data scientists the way that the Clinton folks did.

“It shows that being scrappy, being focused and being smart actually makes a difference.”

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