Last month, Gary Kovacs, the CEO of Mozilla — the fine people who bring us the Firefox browser — told an audience at the South by Southwest tech/film conference that anyone in government who isn’t up to speed on this newfangled thing called the Internet should just cash in their chips and call it a day
“If you don’t understand the Internet, you don’t have any place in government,” he said, adding that he was amazed when he heard members of Congress talk about the need to hire staffers who “understand” the Internet. “It’s not something you learn, or hire someone for. It has to be the way you live your life,” he said.
Now, that’s not just techie rage. That’s word. That’s the asteroid of truth crashing down on your house. Think about it this way — 75 percent of Americans use the Internet daily, with most every business relying on it for one reason for another. Internet commerce is well into the billions and the majority of the country gets their news and information from some level of online feed.
Now, imagine being governed by a group of people who treat the Internet like a VCR that they can’t get to stop blinking 12 noon.
This is actually pretty serious, and while I’m not a political person, I agree with Kovacs. If you’re going to hold just about any position in government, you probably should understand the basics of daily life for the majority and plurality of the people you represent. There are some serious issues facing people today with regard to the direction of the Internet. Security issues, bandwidth, the future of how broadband companies license the bandwidth they sell us in their packages and even how we’re taxed.
For instance, the tech community banded together in protesting proposed — and poorly worded — anti-piracy legislation in January. This made Kovacs uneasy.
“That’s not our place,” he said. Instead, Kovacs said Mozilla will focus more on “protecting the Web.” But that doesn’t discount the fact that when challenged, Mozilla, Google and other companies got together and mobilized a massive petition that drove more than 30 million people to make their displeasure with the legislation known.
“We enabled 30 million people to take action,” Kovacs said. “Thirty million people are not nerds. Thirty million people are citizens.”
Damn straight. So let’s not let up on the suits in Washington or in all our state capitols. They don’t have to be techies. They just have to understand that the Internet isn’t a fad, and if they don’t get it, they don’t get us.