Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Obama Administration and Technology

I am so excited to see what Obama does to revolutionize the way technology is used, not only in our government, but in our interactions with it too.

He wants to appoint our very first Chief Technology Officer, who will "improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens." This is so crucial, because we as a nation are becoming increasingly comfortable with our computers and the Internet - and the government should take advantage of that. Web sites like Facebook and MySpace show that connecting with people over the Internet is a worthwhile, highly popular, and groundbreaking endeavor. For example, the nation- and world-wide Proposition 8 protests were organized by Join the Impact, which formed on November 5, 2008. Three days later, almost entirely online, 49 states organized protests in 80 cities. And more than one million people actually showed up. Imagine - just imagine - what this could mean for our government provided similar ways to begin conversations about laws, elections, court decisions, appointments and more, so that our representatives could see it, could hear us as individuals. Obama hasn't even been inaugurated yet, and he's already begun a conversation.

And conversation is only truly possible if net neutrality is maintained and protected. Obama's Technology Agenda promises that "Obama will strengthen privacy protections for the digital age and will harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy." The Mac Observer says - and I agree - that that is "the strongest and most specific statement of support for [privacy] to have come from Washington in decades, if not ever." And, regarding sensitive material inappropriate for children - say, porn - Obama's agenda says that it will develop ways for parents to protect their children from it, which implies that such material will not be outlawed or suppressed.

However, net neutrality is irrelevant to those without quality Internet access in the first place. Obama wants to bring broadband Internet to every household, like past Presidents did with water, electricity, and telephone service. It's about damn time.

Brian Solis points out that there is no where yet for people to tell Obama why he did not receive their votes. He says that "if Obama [could] reach, listen to, and embrace the 46% who voted against him, he might be able to run a truly democratic term." This idea is truly astounding, and yet why hasn't it been done earlier? This is true bipartisanship. But Solis is right - if Obama truly wants to be their President too, then he needs to open up avenues for dissent.

But there are some problems to overcome. Josh Bernoff brings up the problem of scale: "how do you deal with 10,000 suggestions? How do you learn from them? How do you manage them?" And then he offers some suggestions. My favorite is handing moderation and management over to the electorate, Wikipedia-style.

Some other nuggets:
  • Bush stopped using e-mail the day of his inauguration.
  • Obama will be the first President in history to keep a laptop on the Oval Office desk.
  • Obama's Facebook page had 3 million fans to McCain's 618,000.
  • Comparing to McCain's 330, the Obama campaign published 1,800 YouTube videos, summed up to 110 million views.
Now this is progress.

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