social networking and government (and NPOs)

On Talk of the Nation Science Friday today, Ira Flatow had some guests on who were talking about the different possibilities in the future of government using social networking sites to affect public policy making. Of course I found this very interesting. There is a lot of buzz out there about how the Obama administration will utilize technology to take information in from the public at-large – kind of like a public interest group, sans suit-wearing lobbiest. Instead the public interest group lobbiests get to wear their comfy-clothes in front of their computers to have their voices heard.
The Obama transition team’s site, change.org is already up and running, with many posts and issues to post on. What I like is that it integrates nonprofit organizations as well. Many people do not realize how dependent the government is on nonprofit organizations to provide the services they once did. In addition, the scope of the sector itself is huge – everything from Chambers of Commerce (economic development) to universities and hospitals to the political parties themselves (but they are a different type of nonprofit).
The aspect that I like about the utilization of technology in citizens’ ability to provide feedback to government is that instead of having individuals saying what they need, there is a chance for citizens to form groups that legislators can identify as a voting block, to air their grievances. What’s more, these grassroots groups (bottom-up as opposed to top down) can be facilitated by nonprofit organizations who provide services in the areas of concern. I do have to say that the Obama administration will be very interesting indeed.

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