Sarah Palin’s campaign to be vice-president brought a new expression into our political vocabulary: ” the bridge to nowhere.” Now, as we wait with bated breath for the new stimulus package to jump start the economy, there is a legitimate concern that our hard-earned tax dollars will be taken by politicians (of all political persuasions) and used for pork. If this happens, we could well end up with hundreds of “bridges to nowhere” and no material improvement in our infrastructure.
One strategy for dealing with this potential problem is to use social media to force some daylight into the process. The Obama administration is creating a website (recovery.gov) to catalog and track the various infrastructure projects funded by the stimulus package. Once this information is public, citizens all over the country can become watchdogs — reporting on the progress (or lack thereof) of projects in their area, keeping everyone honest. This is a great use of social media. It provides transparency, two-way communication and openness in a process that used to be restricted to dark, smoky back rooms. It will be interesting to see the extent to which citizens who complain about their tax burden will step up and provide this new oversight. It will also be interesting to see how the politicians react.
We could be on the verge of a new phase in our political life — returning to the openness and transparency of our town hall beginnings. Let’s see if citizens and politicians alike seize this marvelous opportunity provided by social media tools.
[Photo Credit: DCSL, Creative Commons license]