The White House website looks like it had a major overhaul. In addition to the striking new visual design, it also has a blog, video address and slideshows, and there is a promise to expand the website to increase the ability of ordinary citizens to interact with the website. This is obviously a carry-over from the new President’s campaign website. Barack Obama and his campaign team have fundamentally changed the rules of how political campaigns are run, and it looks like they will be doing the same to how government is run.
I looked at websites of other governments (using the English version of the available websites)
- United Kingdom: The various websites (Parliament, Monarchy, Prime Minister) are well designed, each in their own way. The Prime Minister’s site has many Web 2.0 elements and links to YouTube and Twitter channels. It wouldn’t do any harm to the White House website designers to take a look at it while they are adding new features.
- France: The websites of the Prime Minister and the President are very stark and look very outdated. The PM’s site is about delivering news while the President’s website is about history and tradition.
- Germany: This is a much more pleasant site than the French one. Although it doesn’t seem to have a lot of information, the site is organized well and provides links to other federal agencies.
- China: The authorities have thrown the kitchen sink at the website. The home page is filled with information, news and items of interest. I don’t think they left out any government body. If you cannot find what you are looking for on the first page, it probably doesn’t exist.
- Japan: The opposite of the Chinese website, this one is mostly about the Japanese prime minister: his photo, his messages, his speeches – you get the picture. What is really strange about the site are the “mini-banner ads” on the right hand side, which on closer inspection, are links to other government services.
- India: The Indian government websites (Government, Prime Minister) are a disappointment in terms of design. But unlike the Chinese folks, the designers haven’t dumped everything on the home page, and they have made an honest effort to entice visitors to stay longer and look at more information. In fact, the official websites even has electronic greeting cards!
Also take a look at other countries: Australia, South Africa, Canada, Italy, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, New Zealand. [If you want to add another country, add the link in the comments section.]
Back to the White House, as the website is getting a revamp, the real brick-and-mortar White House is still ages behind the technology curve.
Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.
What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking.
People in power are already in a cocoon. And then, you take away even the technology that lets them be in touch with real people. The law has to change to enable government executives and officials to take advantage of technology innovation. Otherwise, it is ironic that the government calls for greater business innovation, but does not itself consume its fruits.