Fellow ZDNet blogger, Andrew Nusca, wrote a great piece highlighting the challenges faced by a tech-savvy staff entering a White House in the "technological dark ages." Quoting a story from 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.
Wow. Sounds like me when I walked into the high school where I started teaching over five years ago. It sounds too much like me, in fact, when I walk through the elementary schools that I'm now working to move into the 21st century.
While many schools in the States have modernized and embraced technology as a learning and teaching tool, all too many still live in either an underfunded world of cobbled together equipment or a Draconian world of blocked sites and services. While businesses have largely moved on to embrace social media (or at least let their employees instant message each other for quick communications), the White House, like a lot of schools, simply stopped moving forward while the rest of the developed world screamed into a communications revolution. Welcome, to our world, Barack (you don't mind if I call you Barack, do you?).
This isn't going to be a lengthy post - I have a day filled with meetings and the usual brushfires. However, I have to take this opportunity again to implore the incoming administration to consider the impediments to their workflow represented by outdated technologies. Social media have completely transformed the way students, individuals, and businesses communicate. Information just moves, people simply share what they have, and workers get the information they need quickly and easily.
I completely understand the need for security. This is the President of the United States we're talking about. However, how many companies with very serious corporate security needs still make use of internal social media tools to get work done faster and enhance collaboration? Should every White House staffer just use a Ning or their Facebook to send messages and upload photos of the President downing champagne through a beer bong at the inaugural balls? Of course not. However, there are countless tools that let actual work-related collaboration happen internally and securely.
We've heard quite a bit about rebuilding our schools for the 21st Century as part of a radical stimulus package. In addition to making them green and ensuring that they have high speed access to the Internet, let's make sure they have access to the same tools that made Obama's campaign so successful and that modern businesses use every day.