It is always interesting to see an institution move to a new phase. My employer, the IMF, for the longest time had a reputation for being closed and poor at communication. That has changed a lot over the past 15-20 years, but more so over the past 10 years. Transparency has become a watch word in what it does and what it expects of member countries. So it was with a wry smile, and a raised eyebrow that I noticed that on its main website (www.imf.org) it now has some blogs. One is by the relatively new appointment as Director of Research, Simon Johnson (see http://blog-research.imf.org/), writing in his professional capacity for people who don't get to go press conferences. Another that I have seen is from a group of fiscal technicians in the Fiscal Affairs Department (FAD--not pronounced "fad", but F.A.D.) about public finance management (see http://blog-pfm.imf.org/), where the posters are clearly thrilled to be venturing into a new world, and pump their fiscal fists into the air: "As the first IMF external blog and, to the best of our knowledge, the first PFM blog ever, my FAD colleagues and myself are thrilled to be breaking new ground." Good to feel good about yourself, buddies, but this area may be one that does not stop most people in their tracks. No candidates for reality television either. The use of the internet is even at the highest level of senior officials, where the new Managing Director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has his own web site (see link). But he was previously a politicians and that group has been well ahead of the game of using the internet to stay in contact with the public.
Internally, IMF techies have been blogging for a good while about techie stuff, but that's no surprise. It's when the body of the main workforce starts to get on the bandwagon that we want to see. I don't know who will be stirred by these new internauts, but they help open the door on an institution that is poorly understood and often misrepresented. The world of professional economists and finance has already taken note (see link to Portfolio.com). This recent step into the blogosphere, and its subcategory the econoblogsphere will be interesting to watch. The World Bank and its sister organization, the International Finance Corporation have been blogging publicly for some time now so the IMF is doing a little catch up.
I wonder if plans are afoot to make some in-house videos for posting on YouTube. I have often said that the proceedings of the Executive Board would make for good television, but we will have see if like parliaments, this arena of international economic debate gets into the public eye on a regular basis. It needs something equivalent to CSPAN. The mystique of many institutions has declined greatly with television. Also, the behaviour of the "gladiators" in those arenas has often changed in an area of televisuality, though in some case not always for the best (at least that is my view about the British Parliament). It would also be good to show what people do at meetings. It is always revealing to watch CSPAN and see the chamber almost empty. Where is my congressman? It would be a logical extension of transparency and accountability developments. But one step at a time.
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