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Obama Brings Open Gov't Message to the United Nations

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, September 23 2010

Speaking before the United National General Assembly in New York City this morning, President Obama celebrated the potential of technology to open governments and, for what seems like the first time, took up in a major way the "Internet freedom" banner first held aloft, in the context of the Obama administration, by Secretary of State Clinton:

Civil society is the conscience of our communities and America will always extend our engagement abroad with citizens beyond the halls of government. And we will call out those who suppress ideas and serve as a voice for those who are voiceless. We will promote new tools of communication so people are empowered to connect with one another and, in repressive societies, to do so with security. We will support a free and open Internet, so individuals have the information to make up their own minds. And it is time to embrace and effectively monitor norms that advance the rights of civil society and guarantee its expansion within and across borders.

Open society supports open government, but it cannot substitute for it. There is no right more fundamental than the ability to choose your leaders and determine your destiny. Now, make no mistake: The ultimate success of democracy in the world won’t come because the United States dictates it; it will come because individual citizens demand a say in how they are governed.

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In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.

Strangely, Obama then proceeded to pound his BlackBerry on the lectern. (Kidding, of course.)

The White House is also sending around a world-friendly fact sheet touting the "impressive results" of the Obama administrations push for greater transparency, participation, and collaboration in government (e.g., on Data.gov, "these datasets have led to numerous 'apps.'") The full text of the President's remarks before the UN are here.

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In 2010, Newsweek declared Iran the “birthplace of citizen journalism.” Iranian bloggers were hailed by Westerners as “brave” for their coverage of the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election. A 40-second video of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan during an anti-government protest won a prestigious George Polk Award, the first anonymously-produced work to be so honored. And then came the 2013 study “Whither Blogestan,” which sought to explain Iran's shrinking blogosphere. Of nearly 25,000 highly active and connected blogs in 2008 and 2009, only 20 percent were still online in September 2013.

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