The White House demonstrates a spectacular grasp on current technology

first_imgPresident Obama has made a name for himself when it comes to his willingness to understand and adapt to web technologies. Having participated in a Reddit AMA and been Commander-in-Chief during the internet-wide SOPA blackout, the President has not only recognized but appreciated the internet as a community of intelligent and reasonable citizens. President Obama has routinely been seen wielding an iPad, and even offered Google’s Eric Schmidt a position in the Cabinet (Schmidt declined).To say that our 44th president is by far the most tech savvy of the United State’s leaders would be quite the understatement, and whether they are talking about Death Stars or real world issues his influence has clearly had an effect on other White House activities.Appointing a Chief Technology Officer for the USOn his first day as President of the United States, Barack Obama created the position of CTO for the US Government. The position exists to ensure that current methods are being used to solve problems in this Administration, including the modernization of internal tools that rely too heavily on outdated software and operating systems. Externally, this CTO would be responsible for taking the lead on energy initiatives, job creation, and to act as an adviser to the President. The current CTO, Todd Park, is responsible for the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which pairs innovators from all walks of life with members of the government to solve problems in five key areas. One of the big potential goals from this program is the Open Data Initiative, which is designed to provide US citizens with apps and services to help them find solutions to problems in their own lives. This could include choosing a college, paying an electric bill, or looking for the best health care provider.It’s hard to imagine a time where it is more important to solve many of these problems. As the world moves into a mobile focused computing environment, where it is more likely that a low income home would have a mid range free smartphone than a current generation PC, modernizing the internal systems that run our government and creating mobile portals to access that information is incredibly important. Inauguration 2013 appSmartphone use since President Obama has been in office has skyrocketed, such that it’s unlikely there were many in attendance at the 2013 inauguration that didn’t pull out a smartphone at some point. Whether it was for navigation, social networking, or making phone calls, smartphones were all over the place. To help with the chaos of the day, and to provide a tool for those who couldn’t attend, the 57th Presidential Inauguration app was released with the help of AT&T. The app covers activities from the Children’s Concert on January 19th all the way through the Inaugural Ceremonies.If you were in attendance, the app offered your location on a map of the area with activities posted, as well as a schedule of events. Notifications are setup to ask if you need help avoiding traffic around the National Mall, as well as biographies and historical landmark information for those visiting from out of town. The app also contained a blog with information surrounding the event and the ability to share your own experiences on social networks with corresponding hashtags.Finally, the app provided video from all of the events surrounding the Inauguration, including the live stream of the ceremonies themselves. The app is well written, scaled well for every device, and was visually one of the better apps that exists for my phone. Considering the life span of the app, knowing full well that most people will likely uninstall it the day after the Inauguration, the app was a welcome addition to the experience.White House gun violence pageRegardless of what position you take in the current national conversation regarding firearms, the White House has a responsibility to make their position and their decisions clear. While a simple news broadcast or blog post on the White House site would probably have gotten the job done, there is now a separate page dedicated to thoroughly explaining the President’s position as well as the steps toward action he plans on taking.As you arrive on this page, you’ll notice the animation of the White House in the background with an American Flag flying at half mast. Slowly, words animate over this image, making it clear that you are here to learn about the plan for gun violence. As you scroll down the page, there are videos that come to life and play as you reach them. The videos only play when they are being displayed, and if you scroll past quickly the video stops itself as you pass it. There are other videos that require a play button, and all the while you are scrolling down one continuous page.Floating at the bottom of your browser the whole time you are on this page is a separate navigation bar just for this issue. There’s a hashtag for discussions on gun violence, and at any point you can share this page on a social network or download a PDF that outlines the President’s plan in detail. The plan, as it exists on the website, is broken out into a series of expandable bullet points. Each of these bullet points include individual social sharing functions, allowing you to structure conversations on individual parts of the plan.There aren’t many places on the web that you’ll find a better website, engineered at every level to encourage interaction and discussion. On top of this, the page itself works well in every browser on every OS. This is an effort that can be appreciated on many levels, and helps demonstrate the severity of the matters at hand.Final thoughtsBeing able to wield current technologies is an important tool right now, especially when it comes to enabling a conversation across a large age group. While we’ve not yet reached a point where the whole US is connected, this administration is clearly making an effort to invite those that are connected into the conversation. Embracing current technologies — from the Inauguration 2013 app to excellent use of Twitter to the Open Gov initiative — is a great way to make that happen, and hopefully this is a trend that continues to the next president.last_img read more