Friday, October 21, 2011 | 8:20 AM
Cross posted with the Official Google Blog
The Arab Spring started in Tunisia, and it’s appropriate that Tunisia is now leading the way to a full democracy with their landmark free elections scheduled to take place on October 23. To help in this process, we recently partnered with startup news portal Tunisia Live to offer a training workshop in Tunis on Google tools and social media for politicians.
The turnout was fantastic; members from more than 40 parties and independent coalitions attended. The same day, Tunisia Live launched the Tunisia Talks channel on YouTube, channeling the enthusiasm of politicians to leverage social media and engage with voters. In this project, Tunisians are encouraged to submit and vote for top questions to the candidates, and many did so—for a flavor, see this example or this one. So far, more than 400 questions have been submitted.
This outreach is all the more exciting because YouTube was blocked for so many years in Tunisia. But when the regime collapsed last January, the site was unbanned and quickly became popular. Many Tunisian media outlets have set up channels to organize their video libraries on YouTube.
In this weekend’s elections, Tunisians will choose a constitutional council to write a new constitution for the country. Voters will select from lists of party members and independents. The Tunisian electoral committee has set up an official site www.isie.tn and is actively using social media to encourage voter registration—check their channel YouTube.com/isietn.
This is an exciting time in Tunisia. The media landscape—once limited and government-controlled—is now opening up to online platforms. Tunisians finally have access to a free Internet—and it’s playing a key role in building an encompassing political environment.