Under Obama, a newly interactive government?
The president-elect aims to use the Internet to make government more participatory.
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For instance, when Mr. Bush went to New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, he urged Americans to log on to RedCross.org. Almacy decided to put up a link on the White House website. Within hours, the White House counsel’s office was directing him to take the link down because it might be perceived as endorsing one organization over another, says Almacy.Skip to next paragraph
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“Obama will probably run into some more rules that are going to need amending,” says Robert Bluey, director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation. “But I think it’s absolutely great that people will have more opportunity to have a say in government and it’s pretty evident from change.gov that’s the direction that Obama’s going to take.”
Obama has set out a clear road map as to how he hopes to accomplish that. It starts with the appointment of a chief technology officer with cabinet-level powers who will oversee technological operations across the government.
“Most people from the 20th century think of technology as a separate issue from others like healthcare or energy, but it’s not just one of many issues [like one of many slices of a pie], it’s the pan that supports innovation and change for all of the other issues,” says Andrew Rasiej, copresident of techpresident.com. “It’s essential that the Obama administration put someone in a position who understands that.”
Federal employees will also have to change how they operate, setting up pilots in citizen participation, which means “Wikis [websites where visitors can change the content], comment sections, collaborative projects, public review of pending policies, and online dialogues,” says Mr. Bass.
That may not sit well with some longtime federal employees. “It’s a radical change,” says Ari Schwartz, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “But it’s in line with the way our government is supposed to work.”
Then there’s the larger question of whether a citizenry that’s disillusioned with government is ready to get more involved. The optimists here abound.
“What’s been proven through this election process is that there’s a newly engaged and empowered citizenry that is ready, able, and willing to partner with the Obama administration on rebooting American democracy in a 21st-century model of participation,” says Mr.Rasiej.