Speaker Boehner said the announcement that House lawmakers will now have access to low-cost online video conferencing tools Skype and ooVoo is “another example of the new Republican majority using digital tools to better engage with and listen to the American people.”

“On this count,” writes Alex Howard with O’Reilly Media, “the Speaker has firm ground to stand upon.” TechPresident called the change “the latest curve in a long arc towards modernity for government IT, and for the most digitally inclined Congress in U.S. history.” Here’s why:

  • The GOP has been steadily adopted new technologies into the House since the 2010 midterm elections. From livestreaming the transition to moving House.gov to Drupal, the Republican leadership has followed through on many of its commitments to innovation and transparency. Beyond new media adoption, structural changes through opening legislative data have the potential to permanently bake in open government to the People’s House.” (Skype your Congressman? House adds VoIP for citizen-to-legislator communications, O’Reilly Media, 6/28/11)
  • This is the latest curve in a long arc towards modernity for government IT, and for the most digitally inclined Congress in U.S. history. The House Republican leaderships's rules adopted at the beginning of this congressional session mandate that bills should be available online for 72 hours before the come up for a vote on the floor, and accommodations have also been made to allow 21st-century gadgets like iPads onto the floor of the House.” (House Republican Leadership Okays Skype On House Network, TechPresident, 6/28/11)

The Hill said lawmakers have “been clamoring for use of such communications technologies” like Skype and ooVoo “for more than a year.” According to Politico, “Skype had originally been designated by House Democrats as an ‘unauthorized’ website because of potential cybersecurity risks to congressional computers,” but the House negotiated license agreements with both platforms that ensure “House rules are followed and security is protected.”

House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R-CA) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said “these low-cost, real-time communication tools will be an effective way to inform and solicit feedback from constituents.”

Stay tuned to Speaker.gov as the new majority continues working to keep its Pledge to make the House more open, transparent, and accountable to the American people.