Google and YouTube bring democracy to Iraq

Washington, D.C. – Bet you didn’t think of Google, YouTube, AT&T and Twitter as humanitarian campaigners, tirelessly fighting corruption and helping to build a more accountable society.

But this week, executives from the companies, along with other high-tech firms, are visiting Iraq in a trip organised by the US State Department. The idea, said spokesman Robert Wood, is for them to offer “ideas on how new technologies can be used to build local capacity, foster greater transparency and accountability, build upon anti-corruption efforts, promote critical thinking in the classroom, scale-up civil society, and further empower local entities and individuals by providing the tools for network building.”

Wood added, “As Iraqis think about how to integrate new technology as a tool for smart power, we view this as an opportunity to invite the American technology industry to be part of this creative genesis.”

Officials wouldn’t name the nine executives taking the trip, but they are apparently all pretty senior. They will meet representatives from the government, education authorities, techolology organisations and other groups.

Other companies represented are Howcast, a website that offers how-to videos; Meetup, which helps people organize local communities; Automattic/Wordpress, which makes blogging software; and Blue State Digital, which provides tools for online fundraising, advocacy and social networking.