Tech & The District » White House http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict Tech the way we see it: insights and musings on technology PR, policy and the District, from H&K’s D.C. Tech Team. Thu, 04 Aug 2011 15:06:44 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 OMG… Social Tech Comes to State Department with New Innovation Adviser http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2009/04/06/omg-social-tech-comes-to-state-department-with-new-innovation-adviser/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2009/04/06/omg-social-tech-comes-to-state-department-with-new-innovation-adviser/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2009 22:00:54 +0000 Sharla Lane http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/?p=141 Although we may not be expecting IRS letters to be sent via text message any time soon, the State Department acknowledged the importance of social networking with a new hire today.

 

Alec Ross, co-founder of One Economy, a nonprofit bringing technology to underprivileged communities, today assumes his role as senior adviser on innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Formerly serving under top technology adviser Julius Genachowski on the Obama Campaign, Ross is hopeful that tools such as Facebook, text messaging and YouTube can serve a critical role in promoting human rights and vibrant democracies, fostering development and enhancing the impact of smart power.

 

Currently residing in Baltimore, Md., and with a resume arguably unique to Washington, Ross is expected to bring an innovative approach to the use of technology in advancing the White House agenda.

 

Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang has more of the story here.

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Open House Not Just White Noise Part 2 http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2009/02/18/open-house-not-just-white-noise-part-2/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2009/02/18/open-house-not-just-white-noise-part-2/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2009 22:32:40 +0000 Saskia Stegeman http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/?p=50 Following up on my blog posting last week, it seems like more commentators are starting to raise questions about the Obama’s administration commitment to openness and the ways they are going about it.

In the FT’s Tech Blog today, Richard Waters questioned the White House’s handling of the public discussion around the stimulus package run on the White House’s web site, pointing to the complicated long-winded procedure for commenting and noting that it had the hallmarks of a one-way conversation because there was no way to see anybody else’s comments and more importantly there were no indications about how the comments got read, processed and ultimately what will get done with them.

In the New York Times Bits Blog on Tuesday, Saul Hansell, raised similar concerns about the Obama campaign engaging in a one-way conversation, focusing on the Recovery.gov web site which went live earlier this week and was created to monitor spending on the stimulus package, proclaiming itself to be “…the main vehicle to provide each and every citizen with the ability to monitor the progress of the recovery.”

As Hansell notes, creating a meaningful track and response system is extremely complicated.  New media is generating interesting new opportunities for public engagement in politics but managing those conversations, filtering them and acting on them so that they become meaningful is challenging.  In many ways this is still a developing terrain since the explosive growth in social networking and other web 2.0 tools is a recent phenomenon.

The Obama administration has the potential to be pioneers in this area but if they really want to break new ground they have to innovate and develop tools that promote real dialogue and openness. If they fail to do so, their efforts in this area will lose credibility and will mainly be seen as propaganda tools.

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Open House Not Just White Noise http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2009/02/13/open-house-not-just-white-noise/ http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/2009/02/13/open-house-not-just-white-noise/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2009 14:58:24 +0000 Saskia Stegeman http://blogs2.hillandknowlton.com/techandthedistrict/?p=43 Earlier this week, I had my first browse through the White House Web site and thought it was a good signal of how the new Obama administration is likely to change the way the White House communicates to the American public.

 

The active integration of new media tools is not surprising given how the Obama campaign harnessed communications technology and social media  from the start , although adapting to White House infrastructure has posed some challenges – as Obama spokesman Bill Burton told the Washington Post, it was “….kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari.”

 

In addition to regular background information, press releases, statements and agenda items the site features a blog which is frequently updated and links to Obama’s weekly video address.  Most interestingly perhaps, the Web site lists the White House agenda on key policy issues such as economics, healthcare and technology. This promotes transparency and holds the administration accountable to what they set out to do and in some cases contains some very tangible metrics, particularly in the area of energy and the environment.

 

A key objective on President Obama’s technology agenda is to “… ensure the full and free exchange of information through an open Internet and use technology to create a more transparent and connected democracy”  and the administration seems to be taking active steps in that direction.

 

But a comment made by a friend who is a foreign correspondent here during a recent dinner party also got me thinking about a potential flip-side to this development. He said that he had found the Obama campaign and, to date, the Obama administration, less accommodating towards the press than the Bush administration or other campaigns, and attributed it to the fact that they weren’t as reliant on journalists to reach key target audiences. 

 

The growth of online communication tools is having a dramatic impact on the media landscape as all of us working in the field can see. This can lead to new and exciting opportunities for those of us working in PR, as Bill McIntyre of Grassroots Enterprise noted in a recent article that was published in PR Week.  However, in a democratic society, the press plays an important role in maintaining balance between state, business and societal interest – in part by asking tough questions and filtering information. Care must be taken to safeguard that role.

 

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