Obama And Conversational Government

January 19 2009 / by Jeff Hilford
Category: Government   Year: 2009   Rating: 7 Hot


One of the most exciting things about the promise of the Obama administration is their commitment to employing interactive communication technologies in an effort to better their stewardship of the country.

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It was the utilization of these tools that spurred him to victory in a daunting primary process and pushed him to a convincing win in the general election.  At a simple level, what he really did was engage anyone he could in conversation.  That is the hallmark principle of web 2.0 and also of a good politician.  I think this concept is at the center of why people (a whopping 79% approve of his handling of the transition) are so optimistic about what type of leader he may be.  While it's true that we are in the midst of very difficult times and that will prod more folks into being open to and hopeful that Obama may lead us out of here,  I think it is his continued commitment to conversation and engagement that offers the most potential upside.

When you get 79% of the people behind you you're getting a big chunk of those that didn't vote for you.  How?  By engaging them in the conversation, in the process.  On the campaign trail the Obama team relied heavily on the blogosphere and text-messaging as ways of bringing people together and rallying them to the cause.  He has continued to do that by letting people help him set the agenda for the next four years which he is doing in both the new way and the old-fashioned one. 

From a technology standpoint, the Obama team has created a website  that lets people know what's going on in the transition and also submit and vote on what they think are the most pressing issues that we face and need to be addressed.  He will appoint  the first CTO in our country's history, has put a big focus on clean energy and internet issues and it looks like he will be able to keep his Blackberry after all.

He has also promoted face to face conversation with both allies and detractors.  One night he has a powwow with conservative journalists and the next day the progressives.  One day he brings Republican politicians in and the next the Democrats.  He hasn't even been sworn in yet, but his actions have spoken loudly thus far.  He will do what a great politician (and they are rare) does and include everybody in the conversation.

History has demonstrated time and time again that politicians way over-promise and under-deliver and we've been burnt enough times in the past to cast a jaundiced eye in their direction.  But maybe this time will be different as Obama's seemingly steadfast commitment to discourse and to using the modern tools of engagement offer much hope at a time when it is sorely needed.

Comment Thread (1 Response)

  1. Change.gov has just been transitioned over to WhiteHouse.gov, which has posted the following message:

    Just like your new government, WhiteHouse.gov and the rest of the Administration’s online programs will put citizens first. Our initial new media efforts will center around three priorities:

    Communication – Americans are eager for information about the state of the economy, national security and a host of other issues. This site will feature timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated. Check out the briefing room, keep tabs on the blog (RSS feed) and take a moment to sign up for e-mail updates from the President and his administration so you can be sure to know about major announcements and decisions.

    Transparency – President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and WhiteHouse.gov will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President’s executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government. You can also learn about some of the senior leadership in the new administration and about the President’s policy priorities.

    Participation – President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.

    We’d also like to hear from you—what sort of things would you find valuable from WhiteHouse.gov? If you have an idea, use this form to let us know. Like the transition website and the campaign’s before that, this online community will continue to be a work in progress as we develop new features and content for you. So thanks in advance for your patience and for your feedback.

    The site also promises to post regular youtube coverage of Presidential events and policy messages.

    Go social media and transparency!

    Posted by: Alvis Brigis   January 20, 2009
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