Written by Ross Sheil.

With both main political parties touting their ‘e-credentials’ it remains to be seen how effective Internet campaigning has become and who is more popular online. The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) recently announced that its website has received 1.2 million ‘hits’ since it launched November last year while the People’s National Party (PNP) claims 119,693 ‘visitors’ since July 2001.

However these statistics can be misleading. Firstly the numbers have to be verified and secondly the statistics are made from different measurements; browsing a web page can generate several hits whereas visitors to a website are single – in other words, visitors are worth more than hits. Are politicians getting to grips with the Internet?

Both parties are aware of the potential offered by the Internet to reach younger voters who are increasingly living their lives on social networking websites such as Hi5, MySpace and Facebook. Earlier this year The Gleaner reported on an Internet prankster who had posted Hi5 profiles impersonating Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and her predecessors P.J. Patterson and Edward Seaga.

While the elderly Mr. Seaga was unaware of Hi5 – he took the joke in his stride – the JLP whom he once led, are making full use of the technology.

JLP has a channel on YouTube, the video-sharing website, with the two parts of its infamous ‘Not Changing the Course’ advertisement – mocking Mrs. Simpson Miller and her government – viewed almost 6,000 times in total.

The PNP have not yet officially stepped into the YouTube arena. The most popular PNP-related video on the site, featuring deejay Cutty Ranks performing a tribute to Michael Manley*, has 21,909 views. However as at the rallies themselves this may just reflect a greater public interest in hearing what a deejay has to say, rather than the politicians sharing the stage.

If the parties listen to young voters like 20-year-old Corve DaCosta then by the next election at least – when broadband access will have become more widespread – they will be increasingly targeting the Internet audience. Gleaner Online spoke to Mr. DaCosta via instant messenger having located him on the G2K Hi5 group.

“If politicians use the channel appropriately and persuasively I believe it will really sensitise me and other young people who use the Internet,” he said.

Additional reporting by Jaevion Nelson

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 12th, 2007 at 8:40 pm on a local blog.