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Obama online

08 April, 2009
By Allison Orr

In an attempt by the Obama administration to replicate its creative use of the Internet during the election campaign, President Obama has held an online Town Hall meeting, answering questions directly from the American people.  Obama supporters indicated they wanted to stay engaged with the administration, and the Obama team is using the Internet to communicate with supporters and "sell" their message, particular on economic policy.

The online Town Hall began with the brief opening statement from the President, followed by questions that had been submitted online via the White House Open for Questions website.  More than 100,000 questions were submitted and more than 3.6 million votes were cast to rate those questions.  The White House says 64,000 people tuned in to the website during the event.  The second half of the session was open to questions from the floor.  The online Town Hall meeting has been described by the Obama administration as an "experiment", and say they "will continue looking for new ways to engage with the public and get your input".

President Obama has also updated his Twitter account for the first time since taking office, using it to promote the online Town Hall meeting.  The president’s Twitter page encouraged people to get involved, saying:  "Question about the economy? Ask President Obama", then directed people to the Open for Questions page.  Here, people were able to upload their questions for the Town Hall meeting and rate questions already there.  The website now says that more of the questions will be answered over the next week or so.

You can see the entire event at YouTube: Online Town Hall

The Obama team is trying to show that they can use the Internet as creatively in government as they did during the campaign.  In January, the President announced the formation of Organizing for America, a group built on the massive volunteer base accumulated by the Obama team during the election campaign.  Many of these supporters said they wanted to remain engaged after inauguration.  In March in a campaign run by the Democratic National Committee, the 13-million-strong list of email followers were asked to act in support of the administration’s budget proposal, doing activities similar to what they had done in the election, such as calling members of Congress and talking to people in their community.  Prior to inauguration, the Obama team indicated that they would be mobilising this army of volunteers in support of the president’s agenda, and this tactic appears to have worked.  On the Organizing for American website there is a message from the president thanking the volunteers for helping to get the budge passed.  The president also makes clear that this group will be utilized again, "I'll be counting on you even more in the coming weeks and months", says the message.


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