Obama and Open Source Politics

Posted by Katherine | March 4, 2008 – 6:24 pm
List of social networks
[mattkeefe / Flickr]

Here’s another perspective on technology and Campaign 08. Scott Chacon is a Bay Area computer programmer with an abiding interest in “open source politics” — which he defines as “the idea that openness and transparency through technology can improve our political system.” He put that idea to the test in his own 2006 bid for a Congressional seat; he didn’t win, but he learned some things.

In this 2008 campaign, Chacon is betting on Barack Obama — in large part because of Obama’s vision of using technology to increase public participation and efficiency in government. Chacon says:

Barack Obama has embraced this vision more fully than any politician I have ever seen, and seems to fully understand the potential and path to seeing out that vision. In the Technology section of his website, he articulates many of the things I was not expecting politicians to embrace for years. Under the heading “Create a Transparent and Connected Democracy”, he lists out goals such as :

* Making government data available online in universally accessible formats to allow citizens to make use of that data to comment, derive value, and take action in their own communities.

* Establishing pilot programs to open up government decision-making and involve the public in the work of agencies, not simply by soliciting opinions, but by tapping into the vast and distributed expertise of the American citizenry to help government make more informed decisions.

* Requiring his appointees who lead Executive Branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can watch a live feed on the Internet as the agencies debate and deliberate the issues that affect American society.

* Employing technologies, including blogs, wikis and social networking tools, to modernize internal, cross-agency, and public communication and information sharing to improve government decision-making.

And so on. Given what I’ve been advocating and working for, this alone is probably enough to push me into voting for him. The issue that I truly care about, and which I think effects every other issue in that it opens up government to public input more fully, has never been more fully embraced by a candidate and probably won’t again for some time.

These are all promises of future action. We’d be curious to know how Chacon would rate Obama on his open source politics during the campaign — on, for example, the my.barackobama.com social networking tool. As a related footnote, according to TechPresident (which charts how candidates use the web and how the web affects the candidates), Barack Obama currently has the most MySpace friends, daily views on YouTube, Facebook supporters, and Meetup.com members.


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