Belden Namah
Deputy PM, Belden Namah and Sam Basil have already established a Facebook presence. They could be the first to change the way we campaign in the coming elections.

Politics is a social issue and many a world politicians have utilized social networks to win the hearts and minds of their voters. Our young and vibrant politicians are finally realizing the untapped power of social networking websites like Facebook and blogs. Among those who have taken to the digital world are Bulolo MP Sam Basil , the Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah and even current PM Peter O’Neil who have established a presence on the world’s largest social network.

Social media as a campaign tool was used most effectively by the President of the United States, Barrack Obama had multiple accounts on several major social sites including Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter. He also had accounts on Glee and had even had a social site of his own called MyBarrack.com. The Washington Post even labelled him as the King of Social Networking. The social campaigning was done by his team who had actually capitalized on the strategy employed by Howard Dean.

Dean, in 2004, took his campaign to the digital world and utilized his official blog and social site Meetup.com to organize fundraisers, rallies and meets. This was much cheaper than the traditional method of campaigning and had gathered a strong following. It appealed to the people to become active participants. Unfortunately, his team did not covert the participation into active votes and lost the race. None the less, he sparked a new age of campaigning – the digital age.

In Australia, former Prime Ministers John Howard, Kevin Rudd and even current Julia Gillard have an online presence with a page on Facebook. However, as fellow blogger Tama Leaver points out, Australia has not really embraced the digital culture as a means of promoting ideas and gaining support, but it seems Rudd did with his 2007 campaign.

The former Australian PM utilized blogs, email, and social networks like Facebook, Youtube and MySpace to generate interest and support among young voters. Although not as glamorous as Obama’s, it created a contemporary and tech-savvy outlook. A direct contrast to John Howard; who was epitomized as holding on to 1950s values. Which, in my opinion, earned him votes from the younger generation.

As technology advances and its use become a norm like the mobile phone, politicians will have to start changing their campaign tactics to adapt to a new generation of voters. In Papua New Guinea (PNG) we have yet to realize the age of digital campaigning but a few are taking the positive steps toward it.

Like Australia, we have not fully embraced the digital culture. However, indicators suggest change is coming soon. We’ll wait and see what happens in the coming elections.

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