Governments increase direct Web connections with citizens

After losing last year's election to a "cyberwar," a top politician in Malaysia told his ruling party's candidates to get blogging.

In the news
After losing last year's election to a "cyberwar," a top politician in Malaysia told his ruling party's candidates to get blogging.

Abdul Rahman Dahlan, secretary general of the United Malays National Organization party's youth wing, told the AP that any candidate competing for a post in the party must create a blog to get his or her message out to voters prior to December elections.

The AP reported that Dahlan's blog mandate for his ruling conservative party appeared to be in response to the success of online campaigning by the opposition party, which includes a popular Web journal by Democratic Action Party leader Lim Kit Siang. In addition, bloggers themselves became candidates and won parliamentary seats.

"We need to embrace the technology now," the AP quoted Dahlan as saying.

Why does it matter?
As YouTube debates and MySpace candidate profiles increase during the election process, governments are finding new ways to directly communicate with citizens.

Gur Tsabar, VP for Interactive Strategies Group at Ketchum, forecasts that the most successful platforms will enable candidate constituents to have interactive platforms, such as viral videos, which evolve with constituents' needs.

"More than anything, you can't speak to constituents in a press release format," Tsabar says. "The entire political establishment is changing because of the blogosphere."

Citizens' increasing personal experience with free Web-building programs, such as blogs and wikis, has created a savvier audience for governments to communicate online, and expanded the scope of checks and balances with policymakers held accountable through live chats.

"It's about candidates honestly representing [and interacting with] constituents through these mediums," Tsabar says. "The burden is on [them] to show how [they're] representing [us]."

Five facts:
1 A July 2007 CNN study found that almost 14 million people in Malaysia, or about 48% of the population, have Web access. In comparison, about 70% of the US is online.

2 The US government has nearly 30 active blogs, ranging from "Corps e-spondence" from US Army Corps of Engineers' Chief of Engineers to the Library of Congress' blog.

3 The three leading White House candidates - Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Barack Obama (D-IL), and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) - all have blogs written by their supporters.

4 According to a Harris Interactive study, 56% of Americans never read political blogs. The greatest readership of such platforms is senior citizens, age 63 or older.

5 YouTube posts by the Queen of Jordan, Rania al Abdullah, have 4,000-plus subscribers and nearly 30,000 channel views, compared to the British "Royal Channel," which has about 21,000 subscribers and around 1,000,000 channel views.

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