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Volume 15, Number 8
April 23, 2009

opinion

Also in this section:
Editorials: Bernal for Mayor; and Investigate the torture scandal
Bernal, There are more decent people
E. Jackson, Local politicians and Panama's gringo community
Leis, A different country with a friendly society and good government
Maersk Alabama crew, Union members who stuck together
Manning, Address to the Summit of the Americas Civil Society Forum
Obama, Address to the Summit of the Americas Opening Session
Barrow, Address to the Summit of the Americas Opening Session
Carrington, Address to the Summit of the Americas Civil Society Forum
Declaration of the Fifth Summit of the Americas (pdf)
Amnesty International, Summit of the Americas failed to address human rights
Cox, The life and times of Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez
Brodell, Óscar Arias's second presidency
Avnery, A little red light
Gutman, Health care: can Obama succeed where Clinton failed?
Phillips, A black president doesn't mean that there's no racism in the USA
Human Rights Watch, The Justice Department torture memos
Friedman, Torture and the US intelligence failure
de la Vega, Why a special torture prosecutor isn't a good idea
S. Jackson, Obama's technological revolution
Sirias, When impossible monsters take over
Letters to the editor

Barack Obama and the technological revolution in government
by Spencer Jackson

Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific research, and let's lay down broadband line through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.

Barack Obama

Politics in the United States has entered a new era with the election of Barack Obama. While there are numerous reasons for this, one in particular is important: Obama's use of the Internet and Web 2.0. A quick glance through Barack Obama's webpage shows that he is a member of no less than sixteen Web 2.0 sites, such as Facebook. MySpace, and Twitter.

Web 2.0 describes a new way of interacting with the Internet. In the Web of old, content producers would publish information, and everyone else would consume it. With Web 2.0, people are now able to produce content as well as use it, leading to the rise of such sites as YouTube.

What's more, Obama's staffers have created several Web 2.0 sites of their own. My.barackobama.com, created during the election campaign, is a full-fledged social network that played a key role in organizing Obama's supporters around the country, planning rallies and events. Change.gov --- now defunct --- was created during the transition period and featured blog posts and information about the upcoming changes while at the same time providing a forum for the thoughts of constituents.

Additionally, the official Whitehouse homepage --- whitehouse.gov --- received a major overhaul. The new layout carefully uses gradients, has a smoother layout, uses the powerful JQuery JavaScript framework to provide a more dynamic environment, and prominently features Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds that allow users with RSS clients to automatically download the latest updates.

Another interesting webpage is obamacto.org. This is a showcase for how Americans will be able to interact with the new office by voting and commenting on issues posted to the site. This webpage just might be the future of government: Government 2.0.

A big question is how are these sites going to develop? Obamacto.org, which initially only had ideas about technology, seems to be expanding, covering a wide range of issues. At present, questions related to urban policy, budget concerns, and what to do about the economy are prominently featured on the front page.

One question on obamacto.org asks: “What are the best ways for the Obama movement to stay active now that the election is over? Obama has over 1.5 million volunteers and 10 million email addresses.” To which the users of the site responded: “Use my.barackobama.com to provide feedback to Obama.” Since the election, my.barackobama.com has been semi-dormant. But it still could provide a platform to run a community level grassroots campaign.

Many of Obama's policies are focused on issues involving technology. The new post of Chief Technology Officer will have a multifaceted role: acting as a policy advisor; using technology to interact with the general public; and working to unify government agencies with fast, powerful, and secure computer networks to improve efficiency. Furthermore, in his paper, “Connecting and Empowering All Americans Through Technology and Innovation,” Obama supports "Making government data available online in universally accessible formats.” Essentially, what Obama is suggesting is publishing information relevant to the public in a machine readable format. The potential applications of this are staggering. Ethics reform, for example, becomes simple when watchdog organizations can use software to automatically detect anomalies.

We are entering a new era. Obama's use of Web 2.0 technology in his campaign is proof that he knows the direction the wind is blowing. Technology and the Internet are the future, and the future is where Obama is taking our nation.


Spencer Jackson is a junior at Balboa Academy



Also in this section:
Editorials: Bernal for Mayor; and Investigate the torture scandal
Bernal, There are more decent people
E. Jackson, Local politicians and Panama's gringo community
Leis, A different country with a friendly society and good government
Maersk Alabama crew, Union members who stuck together
Manning, Address to the Summit of the Americas Civil Society Forum
Obama, Address to the Summit of the Americas Opening Session
Barrow, Address to the Summit of the Americas Opening Session
Carrington, Address to the Summit of the Americas Civil Society Forum
Declaration of the Fifth Summit of the Americas (pdf)
Amnesty International, Summit of the Americas failed to address human rights
Cox, The life and times of Dr. José Francisco Peña Gómez
Brodell, Óscar Arias's second presidency
Avnery, A little red light
Gutman, Health care: can Obama succeed where Clinton failed?
Phillips, A black president doesn't mean that there's no racism in the USA
Human Rights Watch, The Justice Department torture memos
Friedman, Torture and the US intelligence failure
de la Vega, Why a special torture prosecutor isn't a good idea
S. Jackson, Obama's technological revolution
Sirias, When impossible monsters take over
Letters to the editor

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