Obama to preside over White House 2.0

(AFP)



WASHINGTON (AFP) - Get ready for White House 2.0. That's what many are expecting when President-Elect Barack Obama becomes President Obama in January and puts the power of his unprecedented Internet operation to work in the Oval Office.

Obama relied heavily on the Web for his victory over John McCain -- from organizing volunteers to fundraising to communicating -- and expectations are high he will turn to the Internet again to further his White House agenda.

"A lot of people are speculating," said Julie Germany, director of George Washington University's Institute for Politics Democracy & the Internet.

"Will an Obama administration use its vast back-end system, its database, all of the online communities it developed, to actually mobilize advocacy?"

"It could, for example, email or text message or call people who live in certain districts to get them to lobby their senators and congressmen on issues that the Obama administration cares about," she said.

Micah Sifry, co-founder of techpresident.com, a blog about politics and the Web, thinks it will -- or at least try.

"By giving people a sense that they really do have a stake and a say they will be much more motivated to do things in support of his legislative agenda because they'll feel like it's their agenda too," Sifry said.

"He is going to learn, either by succeeding or failing at this, that the more he partners with his supporters the more power he will have," he said

"The more he simply tries to push a message at them and make them do something the less power he will have," Sifry added.

Obama's first moves after winning the election would indicate that he plans to not only mobilize his faithful but also listen to them.

In an email sent to millions of supporters on election night, Obama thanked those who gave their "time, talent, and passion to this campaign."

But, he added, there was still "a lot of work to do" and he would "be in touch soon about what comes next."

Change.gov, the official website launched by the Obama transition team on Thursday, invites users to "share your story and your ideas, and be part of bringing positive lasting change to this country."

Under the headline of "Open Government," change.gov urges users to "Share Your Vision" via email and asks them for their email address and zip code, essential elements in building an online data-base.

Craig Newmark, founder of online classifieds site craigslist.com, served as a technology adviser to Obama and is an advocate for a more open and responsive government.

"In New York and San Francisco there are so-called '311' programs," he said. "The idea is that it's customer service for local government and if you need a pothole fixed you contact 311.

"Well let's start expanding 311 systems to all of government," he said.

"There's also the whole transparency thing," Newmark added. "The Internet is all about transparency. The first phase is the election campaign then, afterwards, getting some real grass-roots democracy in there."

David Almacy, who served as Internet and e-communications director for President George W. Bush, said the Internet is "a very powerful tool in communicating the president's agenda."

"The Internet is basically a 24-hour seven-day-a-week spokesperson," Almacy said. "While we're sleeping at night it's still available for those who are searching on energy legislation or the war on terror or the war in Iraq."

Almacy, who overhauled whitehouse.gov during his two years in the White House, making it a much more dynamic website, warned though that the Obama administration may find there are limits to how much it can do.

For example, "you're not allowed to place cookies on people's machines," he said of the electronic spies which gather information about users. "We had to work within the bounds that we were able to play with."

"There might be some people who would be less likely to trust the government as much as they trust their political campaigns," Almacy added.

Sifry said Obama "seems to have the right instinct but the proof is going to be in the pudding, as they say, in the details of how this plays out."

Germany agreed. "There's a huge difference between being a candidate and actually being in the administration, and a lot changes from the day you win an election and the day you're inaugurated," she said.


Obama to preside over White House 2.0 (AFP) by AFP: Yahoo! Tech

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