With great fanfare the much touted and discussed bailout has passed through the United States Congress. Despite the calls for bi-partisanship this measure was passed almost entirely on party lines. A shame that highlights a deep rooted problem in the United States, but that is a discussion for another time. Rather I want to talk about the innovation that President Obama is pushing, in terms of unifying government and technology to help spread information and allow people to see directly how their government works.
As CNN’s “magic board” proved during election night, people are looking for more and more ways to access and make use of information. Perhaps the core function of the Internet, or at least the World Wide Web, is to spread information. Totalitarian regimes that have always sought to use the media as a means of control are fighting it’s implementation and use in an effort to keep control over their populaces. The best popular example of this is China who gained notoriety with their aptly named Great Firewall of China. Even google took part in the complicity and for a while. An article by the BBC from 2006 highlights the issue. While this has since been corrected, it was a low point for both google and the free flow of ideas.
Where am I going with all this you ask. Well, President Obama made history by being the first Black President, the first born in Hawaii, but also being being a technically savvy politician. Armed with a trusty Blackberry, often referred to as the Barackberry, Obama was poised to capitalize on the flow of information as no one else really had. Rather than allow information to trickle out, Obama jumped right to the head of the class and capitalized on the growing surge of technological outputs for speech and information. Like his predecessor his speeches ended up on YouTube, but for the first time it was because he had his own YouTube channel and was sending those messages directly to the people. After the election Change.gov was setup to help with the transition, to provide both information, and to allow a place for people to send comments and address their concerns about the future.
Recovery.gov is the latest of the websites started by the Obama administration, in an effort to help push the idea of both transparency, and to help get the information to the people. While information has been available for a good number of years through sites such as The Library of Congress, those sites are somewhat convoluted and not well advertised. Think of them as the C-Span of the internet, we all know its there, but you don’t really know what’s going on, and it often seems kinda boring. On top of that, what you’ll see are unedited versions of bills, that are often so long and wordy that members of Congress themselves do not read the bills, rather just get summaries to go over. Recovery.gov aims to put forth a better picture of what is actually going on, in terms everyone can read an understand.
Currently, the site itself is just beginning to take shape. It has the basic breakdown of what groups the money is going to, a lot of information about how this is all going to happen, but we are still waiting for the actual breakdown of how the money is going to be used and divided. That being said, the faq page, has a good listing of these concerns, and information about them and when things will start moving forward more. In addition to the basic run down pages, there are pages such as The Estimated Job Effect page, which offers a breakdown of expected jobs that will either be saved or created under the bailout plan, so take a look and see where your state falls.
My favorite though is the Share Your Experience page. As with all of the Obama Administration’s websites, this page is no exception in offering any Tom, Dick, or Harry from offering their opinions and thoughts on the whole situation. This administration seems at least more interested that previous ones in feeling the pulse of the people and trying to stay in tune with the needs and concerns of the nation at large.
The lesson to be learned here, is that technology, and specifically the spread of information are here to stay, and those that make use of these tools will prosper, and those that try to fight against them will ultimately loose out. Information, ideas, cannot be destroyed, and those that try to stifle them will eventually be done in by their own neglect to the needs and will of those they lead.