Obama staff: White House in tech 'dark ages'

In what may surprise no one on this site, Obama's tech team says the White House is in the technological dark ages, according to a new article in the Washington Post: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.

WhiteHouse.gov on Dec. 12, 1998

In what may surprise no one on this site, Obama's tech team says the White House is in the technological dark ages, according to a new article in the Washington Post:

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.

In other words, no Facebook, no external e-mail clients, no instant messaging. Social media is dead!

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

The Post also notes that the new web site isn't being updated quite as rapidly as tech-savvy newshounds had hoped:

By late evening, the vaunted new White House Web site did not offer any updated posts about President Obama's busy first day on the job, which included an inaugural prayer service, an open house with the public, and meetings with his economic and national security teams.

Nor did the site reflect the transparency Obama promised to deliver. "The President has not yet issued any executive orders," it stated hours after Obama issued executive orders to tighten ethics rules, enhance Freedom of Information Act rules and freeze the salaries of White House officials who earn more than $100,000.

But best yet are the systems management problems Obama's team faces. New media? Open source? Fugheddaboudit!

One member of the White House new-media team came to work on Tuesday, right after the swearing-in ceremony, only to discover that it was impossible to know which programs could be updated, or even which computers could be used for which purposes. The team members, accustomed to working on Macintoshes, found computers outfitted with six-year-old versions of Microsoft software. Laptops were scarce, assigned to only a few people in the West Wing. The team was left struggling to put closed captions on online videos.

If you were in charge of White House tech, how would you balance mobility with security? Tell me what you think in TalkBack.

Related: Christopher Dawson: Welcome to our world, President Obama

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