Andrew Keen: Obama needs to stay in touch with his 13m internet soldiers

New media

Last Thursday night, I was in London doing a public debate at the RSA with Don Tapscott, the author of the new Grown Up Digital, a book which explains how, exactly, today's "net generation" of digitally native kids (the 11- to 31-years-olds) is changing our world. Tapscott dedicates much of his new book to politics, explaining that these digital natives are transforming society and arguing that Barack Obama – with his successful utilization of social networks and citizen engagement in the electoral campaign – is the first net-gen President.

So, more than 50 days into his new job, how is Obama doing? Is the BlackBerry addicted Chicago politician who, Tapscott claims, has been created by the transformational net generation, now using the internet to transform America?

To get an unbiased summary on Obama's internet achievements, I spoke to Micah Sifry and Andrew Rasiej, respectively editor and founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, an online magazine and annual conference on how technology is changing politics. Both men say that it would be premature to judge Obama, but acknowledge fundamental shifts in the way the new President uses the internet to change America.

Sifry lists three areas of change. Firstly, using the example of the new recovery.gov website, the data intensive hub to track all stimulus money spent by the new administration, he explained there was now an internet- centric commitment to transparency in politics. Secondly, citing the example of the Justice Department's reversal of the Bush administration's policy on classified documents, he explained that there had been a "huge shift" in the government's approach to access to information. Thirdly, Sifry uses the examples of Obama's use of YouTube, blogging and Twitter technology to distribute his message as evidence that the internet has become a conventional way for the new President to communicate with the American public.

Rasiej and Sifry agree, the internet represents a quite different series of problems and opportunities to President Obama as it had for Candidate Obama. The challenge, they said, was leveraging Obama's 13 million person base of internet donors and supporters to assist with the running of the country. Sifry notes the "waning of intensity" of Obama's online supporters and urges the President to keep up the online momentum.

Rasiej urges the new President to focus less on the television sound bite and more on the bytes of the internet to fully engage with the electorate. But he reminds me that it is easier to be elected with the support of 13 million online activists than it is to get them to agree on any specific political issue. But, Rasiej explains, the White House digital infrastructure remains underdeveloped and thus things will only change when it is made more robust.

Rasiej and Sifry's always excellent annual Personal Democracy Forum conference takes place this year on 29-30 June in New York City. By then Barack Obama will have had more than 100 days in office. By then, I suspect, we will have a better idea of whether he really is the first genuinely net-gen President in history.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Display Account Manager

£25,000 to £35,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: The Company Our client are th...

Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director

£80 – 120K : Sphere Digital Recruitment: Sales Director – Ad tech - £80 – 120K...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum