Harnessing the power of the internet

Bang! 12:01pm on January 20, 2009, our 44th president is sworn in. Minutes later, there is a shift in policy and the communications begin. With a new website.

And not just any website. The Obama administration has revamped and revised the website for the White House, demonstrating a level of understanding and mastery of this new communications medium once again years ahead of anyone else in Washington. I spent an hour last night flipping through the new website. An hour. True, I’m an internet professional and this is right up my alley, but I have to say that it was an hour spent ingesting information, not fruitlessly looking for relevant sources of the same.

More so than the state of the union, www.whitehouse.gov now shows me exactly what Obama’s policies are toward a number of items and arenas. And I found myself actually tearing up at one point, when I realized that this wasn’t campaign promises, this was a set of policy declarations issued from the office of the President of the United States of America. Transparency is coming to the political process in a major way.

Relevant Quote

Taken directly from the Technology section of “The Agenda“, I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the overall sentiment.

President Obama and Vice President Biden understand the immense transformative power of technology and innovation and how they can improve the lives of Americans. They will work to ensure the full and free exchange of information through an open Internet and use technology to create a more transparent and connected democracy. They will encourage the deployment of modern communications infrastructure to improve America’s competitiveness and employ technology to solve our nation’s most pressing problems — including improving clean energy, healthcare costs, and public safety. – Technology section, Agenda, White House website.

A commitment to net neutrality, a clause requiring legislation be posted on the web for public access and no bills pushed through without 5 day waiting periods to allow the US citizens to post their thoughts on legislation or suggest revisions for their lawmakers to take under advisement… this isn’t my grandfather’s President. This is mine. My generation, or damned near to it. Talking about issues in a way that indicates awareness of what the modern issues happen to be. Speaking with language that is reasoned and measured, but not overly formal. And at heart, having good ideas. Some meh ideas, but on the whole some really good ideas.

I’m amazed to see the first start to transparency with this website. For the first time -ever- I know what my public servants are thinking and planning for the entire breadth of the Agenda ahead. I know where this administration stands on several key issues, and I have yet to find anything which I strenuously object to.

The other shoe

When you can’t find the hard-to-swallow compromises, you have to start wondering whether or not this president’s going to be able to reach as many people as he likes. Could it be that the country doesn’t all disagree with me and my personal politics after all? Could it really be that I am part of a reasoning majority who just hasn’t stood up to be counted until now? Or will the other shoe drop and resistance to these progressive, modern, and well-thought-out policies be met with a bitter uphill struggle, undermined by even Barack’s own party members on the hill?

Only time will tell. But I must say, this president has already managed to turn the role of the web in politics on its head, and he’s only been on the job for less than 24 hours. I really do believe that we can make a change. And I’m ready to do my part to support it, Mr. Obama, though my skills are not in a position to provide financial assistance right now. Let’s get our hands dirty and guide this old republic into the 21st century, with all the challenges and opportunities that presents.

President Obama has set an agenda item to improve our broadband internet access until it becomes number one in the world, in terms of numbers of connected citizens. I am astounded and well and truly pleased first that my presidential candidate actually understands that a) we’re not currently leading the charge in that area, and b) actually understands the political, social, and economic ramifications that access carries with it, enough that c) it’s a plank in his administration’s agenda.

Lead on, sir. We’ve been waiting for you for a long time.


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