Today’s Washington Post has a story on its front page: “Staff Finds White House in the Technological Dark Ages.”
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.” -Washington Post
Some say that whoever has been responsible for information technology in the White House itself should be fired — but then perhaps the change of Administration just took care of that 🙂
Overall, this situation is familiar to anyone who has worked in what I call “Big-G IT” or the information technology of a federal government agency. I’ve argued about its challenges and sub-optimality before: see my previous pieces on “Roadmap for Innovation: From the Center to the Edge,” and more specifically “Puncturing Circles of Bureaucracy.” In that latter piece back in March of 2008, I wrote about the “the defensive perimeters of overwhelming bureaucratic torpor,” and the frustrating reality within much of Big Government: “Federal employees have an entire complex of bizarrely-incented practices and career motivations, which make progress on technology innovation very difficult, not to mention general business-practice transformation as a whole.”
Here’s the truly frustrating, mind-bending part: it isn’t always true! Other elements of the White House have cutting-edge, world-class technologies operating day in, day out.
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