06/23/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Online Politics: Why Mouse Awards Matter

This week, I had the opportunity to speak on a keynote panel at 2010 Politics Online Conference regarding the use of New Media in Government. This week, I was also honored to receive my 5th Mouse Award from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) recognizing the best websites in Congress. As the only Member in Congress to receive a website award from CMF each year, I owe my success to the values of innovation and hard work, exemplified well by my 15th District, which propel me to be at the forefront of the New Media wave.

Events like these usually elicit questions about why I put so much emphasis on constituent communications through new technology. As a former educator, I have always believed that involving stakeholders in decision-making yields the best results. This method works in the classroom, and is essential when governing. The American people are our nation's greatest resource and the residents of CA-15 are my guide.

Empowering the public with information can lead to better public policy. Representing the interests of constituents becomes easier when technology enables elected officials to more easily tap into the knowledge and expertise of the public. I have spent my career in Congress pushing for this and promoting technologies, developed in my Silicon Valley, which can enable citizens to have better access to their representatives, and also leading to increased transparency too.

My work in the New Media field has focused on making sure that people are receiving the information they want, and in the format they want, so that they can properly express their opinions and participate in the political process. This includes involving people from all walks of life into my work. Social media has a wonderful way of involving people with varied backgrounds and interests, including communities that have language or cultural barriers.

Having innovative programs is critical to this involvement. For example, before the Presidential inauguration last year, I asked my constituents on Facebook to propose ideas on how to reduce educational inequity as a way to receive tickets to the inauguration. This request resulted in ample interest from previously marginalized groups who had never felt remotely accessible to government. Similarly, when I crowdsourced the design of my website, over 100 designers from around the world and thousands of my constituents participated in building a website "for the people, by the people". These types of media-based participatory government have helped to involve even the least politically active in larger policy decisions.

The American public now expects a new media government - something that was hard to imagine even four years ago. They expect their elected officials to be responsive and dynamic. It is our job to be so.