CHICAGO -- Armed with millions of e-mail addresses and a political operation that harnessed the Internet like no campaign before it, Barack Obama will enter the White House with the opportunity to create the first truly "wired" presidency.
Obama aides and allies are preparing a major expansion of the White House communications operation, enabling them to reach out directly to the supporters they have collected over 21 months without having to go through the mainstream media.
I think this misses it -- wide. The opportunity here is much bigger than an excellent e-mail list. It's a chance to engage Americans with its own government using a series of tubes on a new and more meaningful level.
BHO is a techno-geek. He "gets" it. I think one of his initiatives will be a re-technologicalization of the federal government. Sort of like Al Gore and the internet, but married with his "re-inventing" government work.
The federal government had made many software companies and tech consultants rich with an unending series of technological drives. (This isn't too different than what most companies have been doing, either. I'll come back to this.) But there hasn't been a, ahem, transformative exploitation of technology into the fabric of government itself. I think (hope) someone with a higher pay grade than mine (mine being "lowly citizen") will see that this is a multiple-goal serving opportunity. It is aimed squarely at making the government more competent, making it more cost-effective, creating jobs and spurring socially worthwhile R&D.
Here's an example. Why can't I go on-line and browse all my tax records, with ease. BHO has talked about a tax system in which the government basically prepares your return for your review and approval. Why not go with that idea in spades? Here's another: if McDonald's can spy on its workers via webcams, why doesn't the US do the same to monitor working conditions (and if not cams, then whatever remote, automated sensor makes sense)?
This could spark a trend in businesses to do similar things. Con Ed might actually allow me to do simple and easy transactions with them. I might be able to look at the Gap website and see the actual in-store availability of the jeans I want. Or have my cel phone easily configurable and transparent to my computer?
When cars and telephones first came on the scene, there was a rush of great fortunes made in those industries. But after a little while, those technologies transformed not only the economy but society itself. We are at the start of this second, more transformational, wave, and the historical trend could well prove to be a key to turning our economic fortunes around.