Editor's Desk: In this issue

The first adopter

If nothing else, Barack Obama might well go down in history as the nation’s first information technology president. That’s the one thing we can say about his still-young administration with a measure of real confidence.

The first 100 days narrative that dominated consumer media coverage a couple weeks back didn’t even mention this aspect of his tenure, however. That’s speaks to two significant points about him.

First, Obama has taken upon his shoulders every conceivable economic, domestic and foreign policy issue that confronts the nation today, and that mere fact — along with the lagging indicators of the results so far — has virtually eclipsed any of his initiatives or accomplishments on the technology front.

Second, his rather bold ventures into the world of government technology still run far ahead of the mainstream pack. The average newscaster, and by extension the average voter, still doesn’t get where he’s going here.

But make no mistake about it: The man who reinvented political campaigning by turning the Internet into a grassroots organizing juggernaut has set his sites on reinventing government in much the same way. He has created two new tech positions in the White House and put young and ambitious visionaries into those roles — Vivek Kundra as chief information officer and Aneesh Chopra as chief technology officer.

And although Chopra wears a cone of silence while he awaits Senate confirmation — a quirk of the original statute that created the Office of Science and Technology Policy, where the CTO position resides — Kundra has no such constraint in his perch at OMB. He has been hitting the speaking circuit to packed audiences of contractors, government technology experts and young Web 2.0 aficionados eager to know the mandate Obama has given him.

An early clue appeared last week in the president’s formal budget for fiscal 2010. In the accompanying documents, Obama — or, more likely, Kundra — articulated an aggressive plan to use so-called cloud computing as a way to modernize the government’s technology infrastructure. As staff writer Doug Beizer reports in this issue, the White House is directing agencies to launch pilot projects that employ “the cloud” – i.e., outside services that can deliver applications, computing power and storage via the Web. (page 8)

So, four months (or 118 days) into his nascent presidency, it seems appropriate to take stock of the Obama technology vision and see what’s really taking shape. FCW staff writers Alice Lipowicz, Matthew Weigelt and Beizer talked with experts around the community about five areas featured prominently in the president’s IT agenda: Web 2.0, health information technology, transparency, acquisition reform and workforce improvement. (page 24)

As you might expect, not all the results are in yet. But there’s enough evidence already to crown this president with a propeller cap.

About the Author

David Rapp is editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week and VP of content for 1105 Government Information Group.

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