Thursday, January 22, 2009

White House stuck in "technological dark ages"

Obama might be keeping his BlackBerry, but his tech-savvy staffers are reportedly stunned by the West Wing's painfully antiquated gear, not to mention a constricting, Web 2.0-stifling catalog of security and record-keeping regulations.As this funny/sad story in the Washington Post reports, Obama's team arrived at the White House Tuesday to find only a handful of laptops, old PCs running outdated software, disconnected phone lines, and a series of rules and regulations that essentially forbid anything resembling Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, or AIM.

Indeed, as the Post points out, Obama's sleek new White House Web site is looking pretty weak right now, with only five posts (as of Thursday morning) on the official White House blog (including a "Hello World" post and a video of Obama's inaugural address, minus comments), a couple of executive orders, no pool reports, old bios and agenda items from the campaign, and a standard "Contact Us" Web form.

My favorite: The list of Cabinet appointments, all displayed in a basic HTML table circa 1996.

I'm sure the sketchy gear in the West Wing came as a rude shock to Obama's staff, which dazzled the nation during the campaign with its technical prowess and social-networking wizardry. But then again, government is probably one of the most tech-adverse institutions around, right up there with schools (pretty sad) and the legal community (oh, come on, Counselor—don't deny it).

Why? Again, as the Post notes, part of it is tradition, another part is security. Also: What we might call an innocuous e-mail or tweet, a White House lawyer would call evidence.

Obama and his administration have promised transparency of government—especially though its White House Web site—and I have high hopes they can achieve it. That said, they're facing an uphill battle.

No comments: