The Obama campaign, the US election cycle and the role of the media/youtube was one of the big topics discussed at the eParticipation Day in Brussels on 4. March 2008.
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by Morten Meyerhoff Nielsen, Danish Technological Institute
Much has been reported about the successful campaigning, fund raising and support canvassing by the 2008 Obama election campaign. Still the use of ICT to increase electoral participation, campaigning, consultation and voting is not a uniquely US phenomena. A multitude of eParticipation and eDemocracy initiatives exist. Ranging from eVoting in Estonia’s and Geneva’s national and regional elections, gender budgeting in Freiburg, consultation on local issues in Malmö to the political influence of bloggers in China or in the 2008 election crisis in Kenya. Information communication technology (ICT) in other words plays an increasingly important role in society.
As South Africans go to the polling stations on 22 April 2009, campaigning is being played out in traditional media (TV, radio, print), on the internet, on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, in text messages/sms’s with street banners and in rallies across the country.
A full 173 parties – 134 at national level plus 39 purely provincial parties – are officially registered for the 2009 elections. Of these the four main ones are (alphabetic order):
ANC - African National Congress and currently in power with the support, in a tripartite alliance, of the smaller South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
COPE – Congress of the People in 2008 by formed members of the ANC
DA – Democratic Alliance and currently the official opposition
IFP – Inkatha Freedom Party a mainly regional party centered on the province of KwaZulu-Natal
Each of the main parties makes use of ICT in some form and in variety of ways and degrees. The table below outlines the use of websites and social networks (or Web2.0 technologies). Read the rest of this entry »
As politically interested citizens and active members of the online community I assume we all would like to see our politicians to use as many of the great online communication tools as possible. There is no doubt that Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. can be great to reach out to certain sets of constituencies and potential voters, collect donations or to raise transparency of government and party work. The Obama Presidential Campaign and the work done with Change.gov right now further support this assessment. But the Web2.0 has its pitfalls; especially for those holding a government office.
Politicians, as government officials, have to closely follow the legal and organisational rules governing the position they hold. This means that not every tool they choose to communicate with citizens may fit the purpose of their office or even be completely legal. An example for this would be the plan of Barrack Obama to keep posting his weekly radio address to the nation to Youtube.com and to embed that video on the Change.gov or other government website. This idea and the first try of it were warmly welcomed by the internet community and I fully agree to that excitement. But there are several problems which have to be taken into account: