White House CTO still uses a BlackBerry and a 2013 Dell laptop

The real problem for White House chief technology officer Megan Smith isn't getting the Obama administration off floppy disks. It's about budget and authority.

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(Image: White House)

Four months into the job as White House chief technology officer, former Google executive Megan Smith still struggles with "culture shock" at how backwards and outdated the seat of executive power is.

So far, Smith is said to still be trying to get her head around why parts of the Obama administration is still run in part on floppy disks.

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In a new profile of Smith by The New York Times on Saturday, Smith remains cheery. "We're on it," she told the newspaper, a year after the calamitous roll-out of the administration's legacy, Healthcare.gov.

It's her job to wean the White House off BlackBerrys and outdated and clunky laptops, despite having to use these on a daily basis.

But the profile of Smith is hesitant -- not of her -- but of the lack of support she has been given in the past few months. Her predecessors barely scraped the surface of the White House's technology problems. That's because little has fundamentally changed in the White House in the five years after Obama first created the post of chief technology officer, whose role would be to oversee the administration's IT efforts.

Speaking to the newspaper, Clay Johnson, who co-founded the Department of Better Technology -- the company that ran Obama's online campaign in 2008, and later worked in his second-term administration, the "real struggle" for Smith is that she lacks budget and has no authority over other agencies.

While Smith may have a direct line to the president, she doesn't have a "substantial" funding stream. And though she has a staff of just shy of a dozen people, she has little authority outside the four-walls of her open plan office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the president's home.

Whether or not Smith can actively change anything in the two years in the run-up to the next presidential election remains unclear. Although there is no doubt of her skills, it's whether she has the means and the tools to execute.

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