As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No More Commodore 64s In The West Wing

Stories like this, about the primitive nature of the White House's communication apparatus, make me mental. Maybe the incompetence of the past eight years is attributable to idiotic Bush appointees, but maybe just as much to the fact that they were charged with running the most powerful nation on Earth with WordPerfect and a TRS-80.

Two years after launching the most technologically savvy presidential campaign in history, Obama officials ran smack into the constraints of the federal bureaucracy yesterday, encountering a jumble of disconnected phone lines, old computer software, and security regulations forbidding outside e-mail accounts.

What does that mean in 21st-century terms? No Facebook to communicate with supporters. No outside e-mail log-ins. No instant messaging. Hard adjustments for a staff that helped sweep Obama to power through, among other things, relentless online social networking.

"It is kind of like going from an Xbox to an Atari," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said of his new digs.

The White House website has been very late to update. The PCs in the White House have 6 year-old software on them. Laptops are generally not allowed. I remember being amazed that the Bush Administration would "accidentally" leak documents to reporters, but with the garbage tools they have to work with, I get why.

There are two problems here - inertia and compliance with the Presidental Records Act. On the latter, Congress needs to get involved - our government should have the best and most state-of-the-art equipment to do their job. On the former, the Obama Administration is the best in history to push the executive office into the 21st century.

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