Tech Already Playing Role in Obama's Post-Election Transition


Much has been made of the importance of technology in all aspects of business -- and most aspects of life. It's as true for many "Joes" (i.e., Joe Sixpack and Joe the Plumber) as it is for the iPhone owners and compulsive Twitter readers. My sixty-something stepmother stays in touch via Facebook and IM. My seventy-something mother-in-law can't get around like she used to, which is why she got herself a laptop.


Yet some elected officials know little about technology, and don't appear to see their lack of knowledge as a problem. Though I can't recall the specific Congressional hearing (seems like it was one in which legislators were considering impeaching then-President Bill Clinton), I remember feeling stunned on hearing a lawmaker say he had aides print out his e-mails because he had no idea how to access them.


So it was good news that, in this presidential election, both candidates seemed pretty tech-savvy.


President-elect Barack Obama stole much of the thunder, with his pledge to appoint the nation's first CTO and his campaign incorporating such tech-friendly tools as instant messaging. But Cisco CEO John Chambers and ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina were among the techies who supported John McCain. And as a former chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee, McCain likely knows his way around those white spaces we've been reading so much about.


Though he was just elected on Tuesday, Obama already appears to be making good on one of his pledges -- to use technology to make government more transparent -- by launching a Web site called Change.gov. While it is, as Ars Technica points out, "fairly clearly still a work in progress," it does at least mark an admirable effort to prevent Americans from sliding back into their usual apathy now that the election is over. There's an online "suggestion box," for example, where visitors can share their ideas, and even a jobs page where folks can apply for non-career posts in the new administration. Ars Technica also points toward a site launched by the Government Accountability Office, which offers a sobering take on some of the challenges Obama faces.


Though Obama has not yet announced his choice for the CTO position -- which has pundits, including IT Business Edge's Rob Enderle, weighing in with opinions of their own -- he has already recruited a couple of folks to help him fulfill his technology promises. Both Sonal Shah, a member of Google's global development team and former Goldman, Sachs and Co. VP, and Julius Genachowski, an executive with Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp., have previous government experience. Yet neither has served as a lobbyist, which Obama supporters see as a sign of his commitment to change, according to DailyTech.