Arnold leads the nation with high-tech website

With Bush's former comms director working on his site, Schwarzenegger features live interactive video Q&As, streaming live events, blogs and more.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor
Arnold Schwarzenegger worked with plenty of technology in movies like "The Terminator." Now, as governor of California, he's working with plenty of high-tech again.

Gov. Schwarzenegger's website is far and away the most technologically advanced government site in the country - exceeding even the White House, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Among his impressive high-tech weapons: streaming video and live Web newscasts of his press conferences, webcasts of experts debating his plans, a live video interactive session where voters can ask questions, blogs and Flash slideshows.

Schwarzenegger has "the best integrated use of live interactive (technology) that I know of in the country by any politician," says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg School of Public Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

"The live interactivity is what's innovative -- and it's happening in California first," she says. "There are moments in which the technologies are ready and the politician finds the technology -- and this is one of them.

"Hollywood has pioneered high tech in its marketing of its films ... and California is the home of Silicon Valley."

A key player in the governor's tech team is Jimmy Orr, Arnold's top adviser on the Internet. Orr was formerly the Bush White House's electronic communications director and he drove traffic at whitehouse.gov from a few thousand hits to a few million a day.
"In the online world, when people log on, they want live -- all the time," says Orr.

Since June, the number of daily visitors has already increased 13-fold from 5,000 to 65,000 visits, Orr says. That may be small compared with major media sites, but Orr says government, like business, must develop an audience -- and the more interesting, live and interactive offerings government has, the more consumers will regularly tune in.

But while the Bush White House has never been notable for transparency - the White House was caught editing transcripts of presidential events after they were posted online - Orr says Schwarzenegger's content will be posted unedited and uncut.

An example was evident last week when a panel of health care experts participated in a live Webcast and openly debated potential goals and possible problems of Schwarzenegger's new health plan as it was officially introduced.

"If people hear some sanitized, preapproved (content) that isn't real, they won't use it," Orr says. "That's the power of this media: You have to use everything."

Arnold is not so transparent as to post certain video, though. He knows his glitzy fundraisers don't make good PR for a state still cutting services and budgets.

Though hours of video were put up for viewing in the past week, the recent inaugural gala -- attended by 2,000 donors -- was not: Gubernatorial staffers barred the Capitol press corps from attending, saying there was "no room" inside the cavernous Sacramento Convention Center.

Still when an office with a platform as large as California goes online in a big way, it increases the pressure for every state to be just as transparent.

"What is exciting is citizen access to politics is increasing almost daily -- if you can motivate them to take advantage," she says. "When you do it well, you increase the likelihood that you will get users -- but the trick is getting the audience to come to it."
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