Like many of his countrymen, Gerhard Schröder has gone online with his own webpage. With interactive features and animation, Germany’s leader presents a fresh new image – just in time for the national election.
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has a new virtual face
Two years ago Gerhard Schröder established a German-wide initiative called Internet for Everyone. All the various different political and social organizations were encouraged to go online and to work towards making the world wide web more a part of every day life.
As part of the ten-point plan, the federal government set a goal to increase the amount of public service information published on the internet. The idea was to make politics more visible on the web, to connect to people through technology, in short, to enter into dialogue via the computer.
Since 2000 nearly all the German federal ministries have gone online with comprehensive websites detailing ministry work, leaders, and political goals. Most of the websites are at least partially bilingual with short press releases and background explanations in English as well as German.
A Day in the Life of the Chancellor
Now Germany’s central leader has joined the group of federal officials online. After Joschka Fischer in the Foreign Ministry and Edelgard Buhlmann in the Education Ministry, Gerhard Schröder graces the pages of the Federal Chancellory.
Through interactive features, the curious surfer can accompany Schröder as he conducts his daily activities. For each time of day, the user gets a picture and a short text explaining what Schröder does or who he’s meeting.
An animated eagle, Findulin, guides users through the website and answers questions on a variety of subjects. Just type in the question, "Who is the chancellor", and the eagle spits back "That was easy: Gerhard Schröder. Next time try something harder." When asked how old Schröder is, the eagle replies, "Gerhard Schröder was born on April 7, 1944. The rest you have to figure out."
But beware, if you type in nonsense, Findulin will answer with equally silly statements like "What do you think of Berlin Currywurst."
Even the political topics are presented in a fresh new appearance. A popup with pictures takes the user through the main themes for the upcoming election: the economy, unemployment, the family and new dimensions in foreign affairs. For each topic, a selection of press releases and photos pop up on the screen.
The website stresses interactivity. On several occasions the user is given the opportunity to send an email to the Chancellor. Especially interested surfers can also request a newsletter or send an e-card, an electronic postcard with a waving Schröder and a cartoon bubble for filling in with one’s own comments. Of course the moment this feature falls into the hands of the less serious users who only want to exploit the Schröder image, it will most likely be removed.
Chancellor for children
For young surfers, the website is ideal. Creative cartoons and games explain how the German government works, who is responsible for which topics and what the constitution is.
Children learn all about what Schröder does in the playful animated cartoon, Every Day with the Chancellor. With the simple click of a mouse kids can see Schröder greet foreign dignitaries like George W. Bush or listen to him explain the importance of elections, the constitution and the division of powers. Even Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer jogs by the window while Schröder comments on staying healthy and fit.
Children are encouraged to write a letter to Schröder under the heading, "If I were the Chancellor". The forum enables young surfers to share their ideas on world peace, soccer and free ice cream for all.
It’s no coincidence that Schröder unveiled his website this week. First, it was the week of CeBIT, the giant computer and technology fair in Hanover. Several influential groups, namely the IT businesses are watching Schröder closely to see how he stands with regard to the industry. An interactive website serves as proof of Schröder’s commitment to the field.
Second, as an active and vocal proponent of the Internet, Schröder distances himself from his older opponent Edmund Stoiber, who has been far less vocal about the IT branch and the future of technology in Germany. In the month’s prior to September’s national elections, both candidates will be busy marketing themselves to the media. And it never hurts to undergo a makeover, even in the virtual sense, just before the campaign gets underway.