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November 17, 2008
Leaders log on as e-governments grow

Headlines called the 2008 U.S. election the “first election the Internet won,” pointing to Barack Obama’s campaign skills of integrating technology and social networking tools.

Following his victory, Obama’s online presence has only increased. Obama will provide a weekly address via YouTube, the first of which appeared on Saturday. A new Web site,, also invites participation and input from citizens.

But as the “Think Macro” blog points out, “Obama was not the first.” Russian president Dmitry Medvedev is one of many leaders who have taken to the Internet, creating a video blog.

In one, Medvedev discusses the world financial crisis (English subtitles):

Other European governments have embraced online communication. The European Commission’s “Debate Europe” Web site encourages citizen debate about challenges facing Europe, which the Commission uses to “gage public opinion.”

In the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Justice started a program called “CivicSurf” aimed at teaching local leaders to blog — like Mike Sanderson, a councillor in Fleetwood.

Jeremy Gould, a civil servant working for the British government, writes about and encourages government use of digital media at his blog, “Whitehall Webby.”

The Australian government recently received attention for creating a Twitter account for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The leader’s Twitter page crashed after receiving too many hits. Rudd and opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull have unleashed extensive online campaigns as they compete for votes, with a presence on Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and YouTube. The “eGov AU” blog tracks further e-government developments in Australia.

Singapore‘s “eCitizen” portal launched in 1999 provides a range of online services to users as well as mobile alerts and information.

Dubai‘s eGovernment site has grown from 14 online services in 2001 to over 2,000 today.

Despite the benefits of transitioning online — from improved communication to expanded information — there are some dangers. The official Web site of Estonia, a paperless government, was besieged by hackers last year.

Nonetheless, for countries like Macedonia — which before recently faced mobs of people angry at license processing delays — moving operations online can be transformational.

For more, read the United Nations “E-Government Survey 2008” [PDF].

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