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Government // Leadership

Obama To Do Live Interview From Google+

Administration plans a series of online events using Google+ Hangout video chat.

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Just days after joining Google+, the White House said it will begin using the site for a series of online events, including the first completely virtual live interview with President Obama. On Monday, Jan. 30, the president will appear live on Google+ Hangout, a multi-person video chat feature of the site. From there he will answer questions that have been submitted by the public via YouTube, according to a White House blog post by staffer Kori Schulman.

Some of the people who submitted the questions also will be permitted to take part in the live conversation during the video chat, she said.

To submit a question, people can visit the White House YouTube channel, where they can also vote for their favorites among questions others have already submitted.

The live chat is a follow-up to Obama's annual State of the Union Address, which he is scheduled to deliver on Tuesday at 9:00 pm EST.

As it was last year, the speech will be webcast live on both the White House's State of the Union Web page--where the administration is already offering a variety of ways for the public to engage in a discussion of the address--and on the White House YouTube channel.

[To read about other ways the administration is trying to make information more accessible, see U.S.House Launches Website, iPad App]

The Obama interview will be the first in a series of so-called "White House Hangouts" the administration will be holding on Google+. Users of the site can follow the White House to get updates on the next virtual events planned, according to Schulman.

The White House's decision to host a post-State of the Union interview and other virtual events on Google+, which claims about 72 million weekly users compared to Facebook's more than 800 million "active" users, can likely be explained by the fact that Facebook does not currently offer a video chat feature like Google+ Hangout.

The White House is "excited" to use Google+ as a new social-networking platform alongside the ones it already uses to engage with the public, and it will continue to leverage various social-media channels, said White House spokesperson Matt Lehrick via email.

"The Office of Digital strategy will continue to utilize new tools and develop programs to open the White House and engage with concerned citizens around the country," he said.

Two days after last year's speech, Obama held a similar online event by answering questions submitted beforehand via video on YouTube. But that event didn't have the live aspect of enabling others to participate simultaneously.

Facebook has not been left out of this year's online engagement following the president's annual address. Like last year, White House senior officials will be available to answer questions after the speech via Twitter and Facebook.

People can submit questions via Twitter by using the hashtags #WHChat or #SOTU. They can also participate on the White House Facebook page.

Other officials will be available on Twitter throughout the week via White House "Office Hours." On Wednesday, for example, Josh Earnest, principal deputy press secretary, will answer questions via @jearnest44 all day.

The administration has added some new features to the State of the Union webcast this year to enhance the viewer experience. For example, people can engage in a live discussion of the speech on Twitter during the speech by using the Twitter hashtag #SOTU. They also will be able to view charts, statistics, and data pertinent to presidential policy decisions that will appear on the screen as Obama discusses them.

Not to be outdone, the Republican Party--which will give a response to Obama's address--also will use the Web as part of its public engagement. The party's response to the State of the Union, which will be delivered by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, will be streamed live online, according to the governor's office.

InformationWeek's 2012 Government IT Innovators program will feature the most innovative government IT organizations in the 2012 InformationWeek 500 issue and on InformationWeek.com. Does your organization have what it takes? The nomination period for 2012 Government IT Innovators closes April 27.

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