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Obama's Fireside Chats Hit YouTube

Hear, hear

With what The Guardian called "an ultra-modern echo of Franklin D. Roosevelt's regular folksy radio broadcasts," President Elect Barack Obama has launched a weekly address to the nation — via YouTube.

Like Roosevelt's "fireside chats," Obama uses a contrived intimate setting to discuss issues plaguing the country — the economy, energy, healthcare, education — and outlines plans to resolve them:

The videos are an example of how the President Elect — whose win was attributed in part to his campaign's social media savvy — plans to use "new media" to connect with Americans on multiple levels.

Playfully dubbed the first Blackberry President, Obama demonstrated the ability to mobilize an enormous "internet army" of financial contributors and volunteers. (His email database alone totals about 10 million users, and his trove of mobile phone numbers is likely nearly as vast.)

Methods of communication that Obama used for his campaign — from Facebook to YouTube, Twitter to SMS — will continue throughout his administration. For example, notifications of administration appointments are posted on his community/government site And last week, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett also appeared on YouTube to provide additional information on the transitions and explain new policies regarding lobbyists.

Other plans include publishing videos of government and "town hall" meetings onto the web, and building an online database of government spend so citizens can track where their tax dollars go.

To lead these initiatives, Obama shall appoint a Chief Technology Officer, a new position for which numerous major industry names have been bandied about. Among them (via BusinessWeek): "Chief Internet Evangelist" Vint Cerf of Google, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos, and Ed Felten, professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton. Google CEO Eric Schmidt also may be gunning for the role, hints the Wall Street Journal.

Felten synopsized the job thus:

The CTO could act as the cybersecurity czar, ensuring that reliability of the government infrastructure is protected. And much like the role of Presidential Science Adviser, the CTO could offer advice to the President on all areas of technology. The role could be a catalyst to push us closer to being a more entrepreneurial, high-tech country.

What's more, the CTO will play a critical part in any recovery plan, stated Washington communications lawyer Andrew D. Lipman.

To ensure Americans are well-connected to the ebb and flow of government, one of Obama's primary goals is to broaden internet access. The US currently ranks 15th of the 30 top industrialized nations in terms of percentage of citizens with access to broadband. Obama has committed his administration to making broadband connections "as common as telephone lines."

Bringing the legacy of Roosevelt back to the fore, Lipman compared this ambitious broadband boom to the mainstream construction of railroads: Obama sees broadband dissemination as "an enormous economic engine," he proclaimed.


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