Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Obama Presidency and technology

What effect will the Obama Presidency have on technology?

Almost a year ago President Elect Obama unveiled his technology plan at a visit to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. In his plan he lists several new proposals that are both ambitious and promising.

One of the first points he made in his speech is his plan to make high speed internet available to “all of America” regardless of income or geographic location with emphasis on public schools. This part of Obama’s plan will require major upgrades to the nations infrastructure.

Secondly, President Elect Obama’s plan ties into Universal Heath Care. The idea is that a focus on electronic medical records would reduce medical mistakes and thereby greatly reduce medical costs.

Another important aspect (and one that most technical people support) is the idea of keeping the internet free and open. Barack Obama was very clear when he said: “Because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others then the smaller voices get squeezed out and we all lose. The internet is perhaps the most open network in history and we have to keep it that way.” This commitment to protecting the openness of the internet can also be found on Barack Obama’s web site:

Another interesting part of the plan includes the promise to place certain government information online. The crowd applauded when Obama said: “We will put government data online in universally accessible formats. I’ll let citizens track federal grants, contracts, earmarks and lobbying contracts. I’ll let you participate in government forums, ask questions, in realtime, offer suggestions that will be reviewed before decisions are made. And let you comment on legislation before it is signed.”

Of historical significance, a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) will be appointed (the first in history). Obama envisions this position as one that will "ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century." This position should not be confused with the cybersecurity czar that the Bush administration put in place.

Another goal of Obama’s plan is to bring a higher level of technical literacy to the classroom. Obama said: “If we make technological literacy a fundamental part of education, then we can give our children the skills they need to compete and ensure the next generation of scientists and engineers as being educated right here in America.”

What does all of this mean over the next four years? It could be that some of these or all of these ideas are just election year promises. However, we do know that Barack Obama is one of the most technically “savvy” presidents we have ever had. This is evident when you consider the fact that during his campaign, he had a larger web presence than any other candidate in the history of our nation. If he makes good on his promises, we might just see advancements in the internet that dwarf those of the .com explosion. Time will tell.