The Internet President

Last Updated Nov 17, 2008 12:41 PM EST

Savvy use of the Internet and technology in general helped Barack Obama win the White House. Will it now become a major part of how he governs?

Here is the scenario cast by Harvard Business Publishing blogger John Sviokla, in a post titled Barack Obama's Edge-Based Organization.

"My bet is he will do with the edge-based organization what Franklin D. Roosevelt did with the radio -- reinvent it to create a whole new method of governance. He will go direct to the people via all relevant media; he will organize by issue; he will create a new form of direct democracy which will change the balance of power between the executive and the legislative branches of government."
Let's set aside for a moment whether we really want to change the balance of power among the three branches of government -- that sounds like a little bit too much consolidation of power in the Executive for me.

But Sviokla presents a great insight into how the Obama team allowed his supporters to self-organize and tap into sophisticated campaign technology. One example: "He even armed them with an Apple iPhone application that allowed you to compare your address book to the centralized Obama campaign phone logs and see if there was someone you knew who needed to be called by you -- not the machine -- to support Obama."

It will indeed be interesting to see how the Obama administration takes advantage of the Web, even if national security measures require the president-elect to turn off his own Blackberry.

What are your ideas for a digital president to increase his learning and influence using technology?

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.