President Obama Texts Africans: Follow Hillary!

Aug 3, 2009 12:34pm

ABC News’ Dana Hughes in Nairobi reports:

Ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's seven-nation trip to Africa this week, the Obama administration is texting all Africans (or non-Africans in Africa, like this reporter) who sent a question or comment during last month’s Ghana visit.

This time the administration isn’t asking to hear from Africans, but wants them to follow Hillary's trip on America.gov, Facebook, and Twitter using the searchable term #HillaryAfrica.

Thousands of Africans sent in questions before, during and after President Obama’s speech in Ghana. The president answered selected questions chosen from various African journalists in a podcast shortly after returning to Washington, D.C., but as an immediate response, anyone who registered received highlights of the speech, and will continue to receive updates from the administration.

The latest text message urged Africans to take note of Hillary’s trip. The text begins: “Following Obama’s historic trip, Sec. Clinton visits Africa.”

The text messages are part of the Obama administration’s push for using technology to reach global audiences, especially in Africa. Before the Ghana speech, the administration set up the text messaging service in both English and French, providing short codes for the sub-continent’s most populous countries. It worked; nearly every African country was represented in the responses. Here, text messaging is the cheapest and easiest form of communication. Telephone land-lines are expensive, internet connectivity is spotty outside of metropolitan areas, but cell phones can be found in even the most remote villages.

“I think that the enthusiasm of Africans, especially young people, to use technology to engage with us shows the very potential and promise of the continent that the president stressed in his speech,” Judith Michale, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs told reporters last month.

"Africans are as technologically capable and eager for connections with the world as any people on Earth,” Michale said.

– Dana Hughes

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