Friday, July 10, 2009

The Obama effect: how to win a political campaign with the web

This year I have again been asked to help teach students about Metadata and Electronic Data Management in the course Information Technology in Electronic Commerce (COMP3410) at ANU. The content will be much the same as last year, but I would like to introduce some central themes to what otherwise looks like a random collection of technologies and techniques.

Recently a policy adviser for an MP pointed out that there is an election coming up in Australia relatively soon and that political parties are interested in how President Obama used the web to help win. They suggested if I was to offer a course in how to do web based campaigning that would be very popular. How to do political campaigning is not something I have experience, nor much interest, in. What I find more interesting is how to use the technology to run the country, after you win the election.

What I have found disappointing in the Australian case is that while a political party might use the Internet to help win the election, once in office, this is forgotten and the political process reverts to a manual one, which disenfranchises most of the citizens. Similarly the public service might use the Internet to put out public information campaigns, but seems unable to use the technology to communicate effectively with the public.

Perhaps the solution to this is to bring the political and administrative processes to together and use a uniform set of technologies and techniques for both. That way the politicians could run the campaign and then be ready to work the same way to run the country. At the same time the public service would not see this way of working as alien.

To put all that in a more concrete way, I thought I might give one of my seminars for COMP3410, to which the political advisers would be invited, on:
The Obama effect: how to win a political campaign with the web

Using blogs, twitter, Google Wave, email, podcasts, the web and the Internet to run a campaign and a country.

Abstract: Much has been written about how President Obama used the web to campaign. The next Australian federal election must be held by April 2011. By then there will be a new generation of Internet and mobile phone technology. How will it be used for campaigning? Can the technology extend beyond the election campaign to give Australian citizens more of a voice in policy development and running the country? Are there some general principles which can be applied to existing and emergence technologies? Tom Worthington explains how the Metadata and Electronic Data Management techniques underlying web technologies can provide a road map to the future.


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