As much as many of us would like to continue to revel in the day, the inauguration with all of its rock-concert fanfare, pomp and circumstance is over, and it is finally time for the new administration to get to work. The 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, enters office during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with our financial institutions and key industries failing, with millions of Americans in fear of losing their jobs and livelihood, and at a time when our nation is engaged in a highly unpopular war, while the ever-present threat of terror still continues to instill fear in all of our citizens.
These challenges alone should be more than enough to address for any administration. But in the grand tradition of politicians promising far more than what they are capable of delivering on in any single term of office -- and as this is a technology news site -- I'm going to propose a number of technology initiatives which the Obama administration (which seeks to become more "connected" than any other before it) should set as goals to accomplish during two terms of office. Unlike many of the remaining 47 percent of the country who didn't see their preferred candidate take the oath, I'm willing to cut the new President some slack, even though I didn't vote for him.
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Ubiquitous Broadband rollout to the entire country's infrastructureAs I wrote in a previous piece on the harsh realities of suburban broadband, and from the nature of the followups in the talkbacks, high-speed Internet is still not accessible by a very large portion of Americans, which is estimated to be nearly 50 percent of the population, according to results released in May of 2008 by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation . The Obama administration should provide development incentives to major telecommunications firms, CLECs and other last-mile ISPs so that every American, with the means to do so, can get affordable DSL, Cable, Fiber, or even alternative forms of Internet broadband, such as Wi-Max and power-line based access.
Ubiquitous and Low-Cost Computing for the entire countryCitizens should be provided tax incentives for purchasing inexpensive new or refurbished computers, particularly those in low income brackets. Should the post-inaugural motto of the new administration be "a netbook in every pot"? Perhaps the administration should consider approaching industry into combining cloud computing for low income families with the previously mentioned broadband initiative, using thin multimedia-capable terminals that could be produced by any number of manufacturers according to an open specification created by a specially formed consortium of industry. Instead of an "OLPC", this would be "One Terminal Per Family" (OTPF) but without the pitfalls of a misguided not-for-profit. Allow private industry to compete and build the most cost-effective and highest performing solution, with best-of-breed Open Source and Proprietary software.
Green Computing and Green Datacenter tax incentives for all businesses.Part of the platform which helped President Obama get elected was his intention to try to get this country off fossil fuels, reduce our dependance on foreign oil, and to make our nation a better world citizen by reducing our cumulative carbon footprint. It should seem natural then to extend this platform to reward enterprises with tax and other financial incentives which contribute to this mission that invest in new datacenters and other new infrastructure which consume less energy.
Furthermore, these incentives could be expanded to American (and dare I say it, foreign) hardware manufacturers which produce consumer electronics and computing equipment which are "Green", and to companies that provide clouded infrastructure as a computing alternative for small and medium businesses as well as private citizens that would otherwise have to host their own systems which would consume unnecessary wattage, as per the Low-Cost Computing initiative above.
Ubiquitous Access to Digital TelevisionIn the weeks before his inauguration, the then President-Elect Obama made a last-minute call to Congress in an attempt to stall the Digital TV transition in February, perhaps because he knew something that many Americans do not -- which is like the broadband problem mentioned earlier, and despite years of planning and rollout in all of the key US television markets, many families are unable to receive a good over-the-air Digital TV signal.
The problem is particularly severe in rural areas that are 40-50 miles or more from a major metropolitan area, as the UHF carrier signal that Digital TV uses degrades more severely than the VHF analog signal it is replacing (particularly in bad weather, as rain and snow particles show up as a bigger percentage of its smaller wavelength). Citizens who had good VHF signal in marginal areas may now find they have no UHF reception at all, as VHF transmitted power can be as much as 5 times the amount that the UHF/digital power is. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why why VHF was chosen over UHF as the primary TV band many years ago. DBS-based Satellite television such as DirecTV and DishNetwork are still too expensive for most private citizens, so we need a better solution.
As areas with poor Digital TV signal seem to go in concert with those that are unable to receive broadband Internet, a national initiative to get Cable and Fiberoptics to the last mile would kill two birds with one stone.
Ubiquitous Electronic Access to Medical Records by Healthcare ProvidersMaking all patient medical records electronic would help reduce costs and streamline secure information sharing among providers. It would eliminate the constant faxing and transcribing of records and provide a secure platform by which the relevant confidential patient information would only be presented to the caregivers who really need to know.
We already have the foundations for such a system in VistA, the (Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture) employed by the Veteran's Administration, and patient record privacy in HIPPA. The Obama administration should seek to combine these two initiatives so that every medical office, be it the smallest family doctor with private practices in small towns in rural America to the 1000 bed plus hospitals in our largest cities are able to share patient information when it is most critically needed.
Are there other technology-oriented initiatives that the Obama administration should seek to adopt? Talk Back and Let me know.