June 1, 2009

It's Not The Campaign Any More: How The White House is Using Web 2.0 Technologies So Far

THE OBAMA campaign broke new ground in its use of new media and social networking technologies such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to spread information and engage supporters. It also sparked imagination about how these Web 2.0 technologies could usher in a new era of government transparency and citizen participation.

Some observers, however, have been disappointed with the Obama administration’s apparent caution in deploying a wide range of these same technologies on WhiteHouse.gov. In an April poll by Nationaljournal.com, “new media experts from across the political spectrum gave WhiteHouse.gov an average grade of C+. Although they mostly saw the site as an improvement from the previous administration’s, many noted that it remained a one-way forum.”

There are major differences, however, between running a campaign and running the federal government. This introductory essay gives the big picture of the Obama administration’s challenges in deploying Web 2.0 technologies, especially concerning citizen participation. Two accompanying papers examine barriers to federal adoption of Web 2.0 tools and how the federal government should go about procuring these services. The first, “Six New Media Challenges: Legal and Policy Considerations for Federal Use of Web 2.0 Technology,” outlines the unique challenges facing Web 2.0 implementation on federal websites, including privacy issues, disability accessibility, commercial endorsements, and terms of service agreements. The second paper, “How to Buy Free Software: Procuring Web 2.0 Technology for the Federal Government,” looks at novel issues of how the government should select and procure these free tools.

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