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A Vote For I.T.

The message from both candidates is clear: IT matters in business, the economy, and the upcoming election.
With cybersecurity and privacy, there's little difference in the candidates' agendas to promote better ways to safeguard data and networks while assuring privacy of personal data. In practice, however, the last few years have shown how complicated these issues can be.

Under Bush's watch, the Homeland Security Department created the National Cyber Security Division a year ago to provide around-the-clock threat analysis, issue alerts and warnings, improve information sharing, respond to major incidents, and aid in national recovery efforts. However, many federal agencies continue to fail in congressional assessments of cyberse- curity readiness.

Homeland-security efforts also have complicated the privacy debate, meeting with scrutiny from privacy advocates. For example, the Justice and Homeland Security departments two years ago invested more than $12 million in the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, a pilot project for interstate sharing of law-enforcement data. Most of the 16 original states have pulled out of the program, citing privacy concerns, costs, and data-security concerns. Another federal pilot program, the Transportation Security Administration's Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System, has been criticized by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee for possible violations of the Privacy Act.

As the security-privacy and offshoring-jobs debates show, business-technology issues aren't easily distilled to a few sentences and don't make for simple sound bites. Of course, the election won't be won or lost on broadband-access taxes or R&D tax credits. The economy, however, will make a difference. And both Kerry and Bush acknowledge technology's role as a driver of the economy. At least one day last month they did.

Illustrations by Hanoch Piven

Continue to the sidebars: "Offshoring"
"Health Care" and "Broadband"

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BUSH'S PLATFORM




KERRY'S PLATFORM




President Grorge W. Bush -- Photo by Getty Images







Sen. John Kerry -- Photo by Getty Images


OFFSHORE LABOR


Would leave businesses free to locate work wherever they choose. Warns against retreating into "economic isolationism."





Plans to eliminate tax advantages for companies moving jobs overseas. Otherwise, would not interfere with business decisions to offshore work.


BROADBAND ACCESS


Has called for universal broadband access within three years. Would make moratorium on Internet-access tax permanent and has encouraged elimination of regulatory impediments.





Would provide tax credits to companies that extend broadband availability to rural and other underserved areas and invest in faster networks in underserved and residential areas.


E-MEDICAL RECORDS


Wants "most" Americans to have electronic medical records within 10 years. Has appointed national health IT coordinator to make this happen.





Expects "every" American to have an electronic medical record within four years. Unclear how he plans to make this happen.


INTERNET TAXATION


Has called for a permanent moratorium on Internet access taxes.





Supports four-year extension of moratorium on Internet-access taxes.


R&D TAX CREDIT


Wants tax credit, which expired last month, made permanent.





R&D Tax Credit Would extend the 20% tax credit provided for R&D spending.


CAPITAL GAINS TAX


Proposed eliminating double taxation of dividends; compromised with Congress on 15% tax for dividends and capital gains.





Wants to eliminate tax on capital gains from investments in small businesses that are held for at least five years.



Photos by Getty Images