President 2.0

Obama harnessed the grass-roots power of the Web to get elected. How will he use that power now?

Barack Obama is the first major politician who really “gets” the Internet. Obama used it to build an army. And now, that army of digital kids expects to stick around and help him govern.

Crowd-sourced online brainstorming sessions? Web sites where regular folks hash out policy ideas and vote yea or nay online?

A new government computer infrastructure that lets people get a look into the workings of Washington, including where the money flows and how decisions get made?
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“This was not just an election—this was a social movement,” says Don Tapscott, author of “Grown Up Digital,” which chronicles the lives of 20-somethings raised on computers and the Web. “I’m convinced,” Tapscott says, “that we’re in the early days of fundamental change in the nature of democracy itself.”

Call it Government 2.0. Instead of a one-way system in which government hands down laws and provides services to citizens, why not use the Internet to let citizens, corporations and civil organizations work together with elected officials to develop solutions?

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Obama Pen

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President Obama signed all of the inaugural documents with a pen made by A.T. Cross, a company based in Lincoln, R.I.

Lori Geshelin, marketing manager for A.T. Cross, said the company was notified by the Obama-Biden transition team and had just less than a week to deliver the pens.

The specially designed Cross Townsend black lacquer rolling ball pens feature the presidential coat of arms and are engraved with President-elect Obama’s signature on the barrel. He will use them to sign a series of inaugural documents and executive orders for the new administration.

The Cross Townsend Collection, including the black lacquer finish ($135) similar to the ones to be used by Obama, are available at the Lincoln company’s Web site.

A distinctive, limited edition 10-karat gold Cross Classic Century pen ($120) bearing the new president’s signature and an emblem with the presidential seal is also available on the Official 2009 Presidential Inauguration Store Web site.

The gold pens are made in Lincoln.

A President With a MySpace and Facebook Page!?

As the first president-elect with a Facebook page and a YouTube channel, Barack Obama is poised to use the Internet to communicate directly with Americans in a way unknown to previous presidents.
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Judging by Obama’s savvy use of social-networking sites during his campaign and the interactive nature of his transition team’s Web site, Americans can expect a president who bypasses the traditional media’s filters while reaching out to citizens for input, observers say.

“The rebooting of our democracy has begun,” said Andrew Rasiej, founder of Personal Democracy Forum and the techPresident blog. ” Obama has the potential to transform the relationship between the American public and their democracy.”
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During the presidential race, Obama’s campaign won praise for its innovative use of social-networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace and MyBarackObama.com, to announce events, rally volunteers and raise money. Facebook has more than 150 million active users, and the average user has 100 friends on the site, according to the company.

Obama has more than 1 million MySpace “friends” and more than 3.7 million “supporters” on his official Facebook page — some 700,000 more than when he was elected in November. His campaign also has a database of almost 13 million supporters and their e-mail addresses.

Transition officials hope to transform Obama’s vast Web operation and electronic list of supporters into a 21st-century tool to help accomplish his goals as president. They even have a name for this ambitious effort: Obama 2.0.

“Obama has invented an alternative media model,” said CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider. “In the old model, the president talks to the people on television [and] the people talk back in polls. In the new model, communication is online, and two-way.”

Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter didn’t exist when George W. Bush took office eight years ago. But since last November’s election, Obama has wasted no time embracing these online communication portals. In recent weeks he has taped weekly video addresses and posted them to YouTube, where most have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

Obama’s staffers also have stopped posting information to social-networking sites since the election, preferring to reach out to constituents through YouTube and Change.gov, the official site of the president-elect’s transition team. Visitors to Change.gov can read a frequently updated blog, post their ideas on issues facing the country, and rate others’ ideas. Top-rated ideas will be gathered into a briefing book and given to Obama after he takes office.

“They want information going not just from them to the voters, but from the voters back to them,” Democratic strategist Steve McMahon said Wednesday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “Thirteen million people pushing a button, sending an e-mail to their elected representatives, making a phone call, taking action, is a powerful, powerful lobbying tool.”

“It’s a very smart use of the Internet, to get people to offer ideas,” said David All, a Republican Internet strategist. All hopes that Obama and his staff take a similar approach to WhiteHouse.gov, the president’s official Web site. The current WhiteHouse.gov site, operated by the Bush administration, contains few interactive features.

A statement on the president-elect’s transition site says that Obama hopes to “use cutting-edge technologies to create a new level of transparency, accountability, and participation for America’s citizens.”

It’s fitting, then, that Obama’s inauguration next week could be one of the most watched video events in Internet history. Rasiej expects that hordes of users will be watching online when Obama takes the oath of office, visiting WhiteHouse.gov and refreshing their browsers to capture the moment the site switches to proclaim Obama, not George W. Bush, as president.

As president, Obama will likely not just rely on WhiteHouse.gov but use multiple Internet sites and technological tools to build grass-roots support for his agenda, observers say.

Obama is using the tools that are available to him today. The next president will be using some of the same tools, and also some tools that haven’t been invented yet.

Obama, Japan Congratulates Obama

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Local residents supporting President-elect Barack Obama celebrate his victory in the Japanese city of Obama, Fukui prefecture, on Wednesday.

Obama means “small shore” in Japanese. The ancient fishing town of 32,000 people has been rooting for the Democrat ever since he became a viable candidate for the American presidency.

Obama Once Again Uses Tech in Race for Presidency

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When Barack Obama announced his choice for vice president on mobile, the real payoff may come during the next few months — one text message at a time.

Obama’s campaign plans to break the news of the Democratic candidate’s vice presidential pick to people who have signed up to receive e-mails and text messages from the campaign. It should give Obama’s team access to tens of thousands of cell phone numbers that could be used to mobilize voters under 30 on Election Day.

“What Obama is creating is this army of individuals, these grass-roots activists, who are out there trying to change the world in 160 characters or less,” said David All, a Republican strategist who specializes in technology.

Obama’s electronic outreach is the most prominent example of a larger movement by members of Congress and political campaigns to present their message and connect with voters through text messaging on cell phones, social networks such as MySpace and Facebook, and the microblogging site Twitter.