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All new GOP.gov – Keeping up to the pace of openness

5. February 2009 – 13:53 by Bengt Feil (TuTech Innovation GmbH)

A while ago the possibilities of Change.gov were discussed on this weblog and right at noon on January 20th the new White House website was launched. Both websites show a spirit of openness and the goal of the new US administration to get citizens more involved into the political process. There has been intense debate over whether these sites were open enough or if WhiteHouse.gov was just a small step to Web1.5. But among this entire discussion one thing seem to be implicit: The Democrats just better than the Republicans at working in the medium internet. Now the website of the Congress Republicans has been re-launched and its look and features seem to indicate that the conservatives try to catch up to the modern web presence already embraced by the Democrats.

The new site is much slicker and of course incorporates well known elements of the social web as we know it. There are blogs, a section for video and audio media (using an embedded Youtube player) and every RSS Feed you may need. Furthermore there is a very well sorted navigation to contact the members of parliament both by name and function as well as a personal area.

Beyond these features the site designers went a step further and build a GOP.gov application programming interface. This API offers access to all information on the site in a standardised way and lets third parties use the information in on their websites or in their applications. It will be interesting to see how this feature is used in the next months.

In summary it looks like if the Republicans are trying to keep up the pace of openness on the web set by the new administration. The API feature on the website may even be considered as going beyond what is offered on WhiteHouse.gov and Democrats.org. If both parties push each other to improve their web presence and possibilities to access congress data we may see more improvements in this field as the next House elections is closing in.

This effect of parties and politicians having to match the web activity of the opponent and the “arms race” of building more open web portals and possibilities for citizens to get engaged may also happen in other areas of the world. The European elections and the national elections in Germany 2009 will show if this assumption is right.

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