What digital citizens should expect from president Obama

As you probably have understood, I’m quite fascinated by Barack Obama and the new kind of politician he seems to be. I do support several of his policies (green jobs and innovations, better health care/social security in America, get America out of Iran, focus on Afghanistan, multilateral approach, etc), but I also think he’s been clever in the way he has engaged with the grassroots during his long campaing. And it seems like that interactivity with citizens will continue after he has been inaugurated. I have an opinion piece about what to expect from Obama in regard to citizens’ involvement and use of digital tools in Dagbladet today (Norwegian), where I discuss further some ideas I previously have blogged about.

Yesterday, we could read in Obama’s transition blog and in other blogs that for the first time, the weekly Democratic address (what Obama calls online Fireside chats) has been released as a web video on YouTube:

Ordinary people can also “share their stories” and visions with the Obama administration. Here are some of them.

Danish blogger and Georgetown student Anne Juel Jørgensen has some great notes (in English) about lessons we should learn from Obama. NRKbeta has written about the same here (in Norwegian).

For the last few days, I’ve been reading (and enjoying) the eBorger report, a Norwegian report written by SINTEF about how ordinary citizens can producers of public information. One of the main conclusions from the writers Petter Bae Brandtzæg and Marika Lüders is that the citizens have to be viewed as partners and contributers rather than passive receivers of information. The report has several ideas for how this can be done. One if the suggestions I think is especially important, is that government, both on a national and local level, have to make data available to the citizens, so we can use is and build stuff the government is not able to do or even imagine. Budstikka (a regional newspaper in Norway) has recently buildt a “crime log” (inspired by Adrian Holovaty‘s Chicago Crime). But because the date is not available in a database (such as in Chicago), the newspaper has to update the log manually (via Nedrelid.com).

It is easy to be mesmerized by the digital magic the Obama campaign has been able to pull off, but for smaller countries with a different political culture (and less resources), other approaches might work better. But the cool thing about Obama, is that he has showed that it’s doable to engage people with new tools. And to get people to talk about politics in a different way.

Just in order to balance out the seriousness of this post, enjoy this funny  Mexican VivaObama-video (recommende by my Mexican sister-in-law)

10 thoughts on “What digital citizens should expect from president Obama

  1. Heisann, takk for tipset om budstikka og nedrelied 🙂

    God artikkel


  2. Minday, I’ve seen that, it is totally paradoxical. The first internet president has to leave the technology behind (even though he’ll be allowed a lap top). NY Times has a good article about the same topic. There must be some way to allow for use of “new” tools as a Blackberry and still follow the Presidental Records Act?

  3. Petter, takk for kommentaren. Jeg jobber med en oppfølgningssak på rapporten deres nå:-)

  4. Good article. I am afraid Norway, as an example, is too small and has too few web-geeks to make citizens partners and contributers of public information. The simple way is of course to make public information easy to share on Facebook, Twitter and so on. But getting a good public/citizen-wiki on its feet, as the eBorger-report talks about, can be hard.

  5. Jazzyhal, that’s an interesting comment. Especially what you say about Norway being too small and has too few web geeks. You know, if you have the right combination of people (talent, passion, knowledge), 4 geeks can do incredible things. And you don’t have to live in the US to find that.
    I’m sure someone will challenge you on that remark and try to prove you wrong:-)

  6. I really hope I’m wronge 🙂

    Going to try myself this winter to gather some young web geeks to play around with .xml files from a mobile web app from UNGweb.no. Don’t know if the young and good web geeks are aware of all the public information out there they can play around with and present in a better way. Maybe a good pirze for the best mashup can help….

  7. That’s more like it jazzyhal! Let me know about the results.
    I think a prize for best mashup or eGov tool would be a brilliant idea, a natural follow up on the eBorger report for the Ministry of Government Administration (fornyingsdep). Such a competition could also be run by a media company.

  8. Det er interessant at du nevner Budstikkas hendelseslogg.
    Vi opplevde akkurat det samme med vår oversikt over trafikkulykker i Asker og Bærum http://diverse.budstikka.no/trafikkulykker/

    Denne er basert på et excel-ark som Statens Vegvesen oppdaterer en gang pr. år, og Budstikkas tjeneste ble utviklet av Espen Andersen.

    Det er helt opplagt at vi kunne laget en mye mer spennende tjeneste, og Vegvesenet kontinuerlig hadde oppdatert dette og vi kunne oppdatert vår tjeneste ved f.eks. å hente data herfra en gang pr uke.

    Dag Otter/Budstikka.no

  9. Dag Otter, veldig godt poeng! Det går rett i kjernen på dette med å tilgjengeliggjøre offentlig data. Jeg antar at Statens Vegvesen har oppdaterer disse tallene til intern bruk mye oftere, men hvorfor blir da ikke de offentlig excel-arkene oppdatert tilsvarende?

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