While Barack Obama is likely to have to give up his Blackberry after being sworn in as President (owing mainly to a lack of email security, as well as record keeping under the Presidential Records Act), he will have a laptop on his desk in the Oval Office, a first. And he just finished up the first-ever Presidential YouTube address, which will become a regular feature.
It already has 630,000 views, probably 620,000 more than those weekly radio addresses which air at 4am. The even more interesting development is Valerie Jarrett's address at change.gov, a completely transparent update on who will be leading key agencies, which has NINETY-EIGHT THOUSAND VIEWS. This is a wonky and fairly dull address about ethics requirements and lobbyists, but because it's being made widely available and people are hungering for knowledge about the incoming Administration, it's getting widespread attention.
I find this to be very significant. Obama enters office with 3.1 million donors and an email list of 10 million. How these lists are put to use and allowed to engage with the Administration will signal how much the President-elect will live up to his expression that change begins from the bottom up. By using these Web tools, Obama can bypass traditional filters and deliver action items to his audience on issues can have relevance and immediacy.
"He can do a half-hour YouTube address every Saturday, addressing millions," Trippi said. "The networks would never give the president that much television time each week, but the press is still going to have to cover what he says on YouTube."
Aides say the Obama team will staff a robust "new media" operation out of the White House and plans a complete overhaul of the White House Web site to make it more interactive and user-friendly. On the campaign trail, Obama promised to use the Internet to make his administration more open, such as offering a detailed look at what's going on in the White House on a given day or asking people to post comments on his legislative proposals.
The Internet outreach team includes some really great people, and I'm sure they will push the technology (White House Twitter feed, anyone?) in the years to come. As for this nonsense that Obama has to be careful reaching his supporters in a partisan way, I think that's a deep misreading of his Internet fan base. My personal view is that an overwhelmingly substantial portion of his Web supporters are not just Democrats, but more progressive than he is. And not only that, they are not passive creatures who have to be told what to think and what to support. They were TRAINED in the campaign to be self-starters. It's going to be a bit less about how Obama wants to use these supporters and more how these supporters want to use the technology, whether to support policy or push Obama from the left.
The other very good outcome of a President who gets technology and its promise is that it makes him more likely to sign a net neutrality bill into law. Keeping the Internet open and free helped Obama win the White House - now he can return the favor by ensuring that freedom well into the future. Sen. Byron Dorgan plans to introduce a net neutrality bill in January - I'm hoping the Congress acts swiftly on it.