Editor's Desk | The Obama technology era
AFTER MANAGING A textbook presidential campaign for the 21st
century, it should have come as little surprise how quickly
President-elect Barack Obama's transition team set up new
operations on the Internet ' www.change.gov ' using it
to promote Obama's agenda and announce his top transition
advisers. In doing so, it also introduced a new chapter in the role
of technology in U.S. government.
Obama's election is, and his presidency will be, historic
for many reasons. His adoption of Web 2.0 and database technologies
to engage the public ' and his commitment to leveraging
technology ' promise to be among those reasons.
The Obama team's tactical use of technology is described
in intriguing detail in a recent MIT Technology Review article
(GCN.com/1245). Perhaps more important is Obama's
plan to appoint a national chief technology officer ' unnamed
at press time ' and his science and technology agenda.
The CTO, the first in the nation's history, would work
with agency chief information officers and CTOs to share best
practices, ensure network safety and evaluate new technologies,
among other duties.
Julius Genachowski, who was chairman of the advisory committee
that produced Obama's technology and innovation plan, is
among several people in consideration.
One person not mentioned but whose technology vision deserves
consideration is IBM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sam
Palmisano. In a Nov. 6 speech (GCN.com/1246), Palmisano sketched
a compelling future taking shape from recent technology
Foremost among them: how quickly the world is becoming
instrumented, with sensors being embedded and interconnected across
entire ecosystems. Another is how new computing models that can
handle the proliferation of devices ' and combined with
advanced analytics ' are making systems and infrastructures
These developments make it possible ' and economic
conditions make it necessary he argues ' for companies,
institutions and industries to integrate them into day-to-day
operations. The upshot is the huge potential for improvements to
electrical grid systems, which globally waste 40 percent to 70
percent of the energy they carry; gridlocked roadways, which cost
$78 billion annually in the United States in lost hours and wasted
gas; supply chains, where inefficiencies cost consumer industries
$40 billion annually; and in health care, water management,
financial and other industries where inefficiencies result in
The good news in periods of discontinuity, Palmisano suggests,
is the opportunity that exists for those with courage and vision to
tackle big problems through smarter technologies.