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Obamas way

Zafar Anjum | Nov. 13, 2008
Web 2.0-savvy Barack Obamas presidential campaign is inspiring politicians all over the world.

In the wake of the historic win of Barack Obama as the first African-American US president, editors and politicians in all multi-ethnic and multi-racial countries are asking two pertinent questions: one, when will their country elect a member of the minority as their countrys leader; and two, how can they (politicians) harness the power of the Web to connect to the young voters and raise funds.

While the first question is more about fairness in a political system, the second question is about being technology savvywhich in our given timescan highly influence a candidates performance at the hustings.

As far as the first issue is concerned, the American political system is different from the British parliamentary system that is practised in most Commonwealth democracies, including India which is the worlds largest democracy (in terms of population). Even Singapore, with a corruption-free, meritocracy-based transparent government, has a political system different from that of America, and yet it has a president from the minority community.

In fact, many Asian countries have already shown political sensitivity to race and gender issues. India provided universal adult suffrage to all its males and females when it became independent, while it took UK decades before it could extend the voting rights to its female citizens. India had Indira Gandhi as its prime minister before Britain had Margaret Thatcher. America has yet to catch up with countries such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia and even Bangladesh on this score.  

Many in India have been raising the question: when will India have its Obama? The fact is India already has its Obama in the form of prime minister Manmohan Singh, a Sikh (member of the minority community) by faith.

Harnessing the power of the Web

Coming to the second issue, Obama has clearly proven that for politicians to run successful campaigns, Web 2.0 is the way to go.

Writing in the Network World, Scott Bradner noted: He (Obama) involved and organised hundreds of thousands of volunteers and raised hundreds of million dollars using the Internet. Obama had five times as many videos on his YouTube channel than John McCain did. More than six million people have viewed Obama's speech on race relations and viewing time on YouTube for Obama's official videos is claimed to total 14.5 million hours. Another impressive statistic is that the Obama campaign scheduled 150,000 events, big and small, though the Internet.

Impressive indeed. Obama outperformed his rival McCains e-campaign in every possible way. The latest is that Barack Obama's Web site had better uptime than rival John McCain's. While Obama's Web site never went down in the six months prior to the 4 November election, McCain's was offline for nearly two hours in totalnever for more than 25 minutes at a stretchduring the six-month period. Which is not bad: McCains site managed to be up 99.96 per cent of the time.


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