Computer Crime Research Center


Obama brings cyber sensibility to office

Date: November 11, 2008

New administration will continue to tap into high-tech tools.
If Obama gets his way, all Americans will have broadband Internet access, whether they live in big cities or remote villages. Online life will be safer, with better defenses against cybercriminals. And there will be greater access to government, with online services to let anyone question members of the president's Cabinet or track every dime of the federal budget.

"I think it's not going to happen in the first hundred days, but I think a lot of this can happen in the first term," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, a media reform organization based in Washington, D.C.

Judging by the campaign's position paper on technology policy - calls and e-mails to the Obama transition team were not returned - the president-elect believes Internet technology should be as thoroughly integrated into federal agencies as it was in his campaign, where the Web was used to communicate, raise money, and get out the vote in a way that was unprecedented in US politics. A large Internet presence boosted his prodigious fund-raising, helping to collect a record-breaking $150 million in September alone, and such online innovations as the campaign's "Project Houdini," which tracked voters in real time on the day of the election, were the first of their kind. He is in the process of choosing the nation's first chief technology officer - a post that's long existed in most corporations, but never in government.

Phil Bond, a former undersecretary of commerce in George W. Bush's administration who now heads the industry lobbying group Information Technology Association of America, praised Obama's plan to bring online innovations to the federal government. Obama wants to put YouTube-like videos of government meetings online, so citizens can see their federal agencies at work, and has proposed a Google-like database of federal grants and contracts, so people can see where their money is going. And he'll require his Cabinet members to hold regular online town hall meetings, where they'll field questions from the Internet audience.

"His use of the technology in the campaign would imply a lot of positive things for government as well," said Bond. "I think we're going to see a lot of things we can't even imagine today, because they have a very open mind-set."

But before they can benefit from online government, many Americans must get online. The US ranks 15th out of 30 industrialized nations in the percentage of citizens with access to the Internet. Obama promises to make Internet access as commonplace as telephone service.
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