Google adds nation-building to its resume

As if tracking the flu, nursing the planet's climate and fighting terrorism weren't enough, Google is now offering its expertise to Iraq in order to help that beleaguered country move a bit closer to democracy. Is there nothing Google can't do?

Reuters reports that Google was just one of several U.S. companies brought to Iraq by the U.S. State Department as part of an overall plan to help the country "fight corruption and build a more accountable society." But the overall lineup shows that the U.S. seems to be setting its sites squarely on networking and Web 2.0 firms as democracy's most shining lights. Besides Google, top executives from Twitter, AT&T, YouTube, HowCast, MeetUp, Automattic/Wordpress and Blue State Digital made the trip.

According to State Department spokesman Robert Wood, the idea is to present Iraqis with new technologies that help foster transparency, strengthen society and empower people and local groups by "providing the tools for network building." As he says:

"As Iraqis think about how to integrate new technology as a tool for smart power, we view this as an opportunity to invite the American technology industry to be part of this creative genesis."

Yes, by all means. While some may say the true signs of stability in Iraq have more to do with reducing the number of suicide bombings, providing a workable plan for sharing oil wealth equitably among the provinces or implementing long overdue government reforms, the actual signpost is the number of Iraqis tweeting daily minutiae on Twitter or those posting videos of stupid pet tricks on YouTube.

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