Every time I try to ramp up to tackle this post, I get struck by another by another, “oh, wow” when I visit Change.Gov. This week they have the Open for Questions experience (being discussed on our Consult@ group) and I just discovered their Seat at the Table option where groups can upload documents to provide input to the transition team.
Today, the respected Pew Internet and American Life Project released a survey on expectations about Obama’s use of technology in office (news reports). There are some great numbers (press release below). The shortcoming of the survey is that it focused on activism/communication – how people expect Obama to activate them or how they might act on behalf of the new President to push his agenda online. I fully expect Obama’s campaign, I said campaign, to continue BarackObama.com as an activist tool and its bottom-up engagement environment for supporters.
However, as President and with WhiteHouse.Gov (I assume Change.Gov will move to that domain Jan. 20), Obama represents everyone and the more important question to me is what do people expect from the next President and government as whole in terms of listening/engaging people online. Old politics transferred to the new medium in terms of broadcast communication is so Beltway.
That said, Change.Gov is already starting to answer that question by both accepting input in different structured form and by using the sites visitors to rate/vote up content/questions. In the past I’ve pointed out leading features on the websites of world leaders outside the United States. We were a desert in governance online. No more. Ha. Finally.
How will the next Administration use the Internet to listen to people and involve them in meeting public challenges? In this era, it is clear that government alone won’t have the resources to fix things for us, but it can play a vital convening role of citizen capacity from the local up to national level. Obama used a neighbor to neighbor tool to allow people to go door to door or call their neighbors to influence their votes, will they engage people at that level (because clearly the technology can) bring people together to not just support the President’s agenda but to instead solve local problems nationally? Wow, that would be something.
They will come in large part from my Ten Practical Online Steps for Government Support of Democracy and Sidewalks for Democracy Online articles, the practical e-democracy best practices “briefs” as well as my longer and older report to the U.N. titled E-Government and Democracy: Representation & Citizen Engagement in the Information Age.
Let me offer one. It is good that Change.Gov allows people to opt-in to e-mail contact. While the action specific e-mail update have been helpful, like Japanese Prime Ministers have done with considerable success, send out a weekly e-mail newsletter. Keep it concise and highlight the most important new things across your website. In Japan they send it out on Thursday’s when the bulk of the week’s new content in on the site. Most importantly it contains a short first person article most weeks from the leader of their country. I expect my next President to talk to me first person online somewhere. My not in an e-mail newsletter that will likely be read by more people than those who listen to or watch the weekly radio address.
P.S. The note from PewInternet:
From: Cornelia Carter-Sykes
Subject: Pew Internet Report: Post-Election Voter Engagement
After a presidential election in which voters increasingly went online to mobilize others and take part in the political debate, many of those who were active during the campaign expect to remain engaged with the incoming Obama Administration and mobilize others in support of his agenda.
This is the key finding of a new national phone survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which also found that:
* 62% of Obama voters expect that they will encourage others to support the new administration’s policies during the upcoming year. 48% of these expect to do so in person, 25% expect to do so over the phone, and 16% expect to promote the new President’s agenda to others on the
* Among Obama voters who were involved online during the campaign, 25% say they plan to mobilize support for the administration’s policies by using the internet.
For the full report please visit: