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Tweeting from Baghdad (and Beyond)

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, May 6 2009

Remember that State Department trip that representatives from new media companies like Twitter, YouTube, and HowCast took to Baghdad a few weeks back? The outreach seems to already be fulfilling some of its more straightforward objectives. Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salim has taken to Twitter -- an outcome predicted by participants on the trip. A sampling of Salim's tweets:

  • Sorry, my first tweet not pleasant; dust storm in Baghdad today & yet another suicide bomb. Awful reminder that it is not yet all fine here.
  • Boring day so far! Meeting after meeting-not much to show up for, I must admit. Preparing for London conf on investment in Iraq on the 30th.
  • Pres Sarkozi is smart&engaging!Substantive meeting on Iraq-France relations& future of region. Amazing how dynamics have changed since war.

Jared Cohen, the State Department point person on the use of social media in public diplomacy, passes along his take on the significance of Salih's tweets:

It was a remarkable scene to sit in Deputy Prime Minister Salih's garden in Baghdad and watch Twitter founder Jack Dorsey convince him that he should be the first Iraqi senior official tweeting. The Deputy Prime Minister -- an avid technology evangelist himself -- promised to sign-up the next day. Not only did he sign-up, but he has been posting Twitter updates that are candid and insightful.

In America successful use of technology in the political sphere has highlighted how technology leads to more effective communication, organizing, engagement, accountability and transparency, empowerment, and capacity building. We hope that Dr. Salih tweeting will inspire similar trends in Iraq, not just for politicians and government officials, but also for civil society. The free flow of information and the enhanced ability for the Iraqi people to communicate in real time will be an exciting development in a country with tremendous history of innovation and talent.

(Photo of Salih with General David Petraeus, courtesy of the U.S. Army)