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Assuming the CTO is appointed by the beginning of the Obama administration, on January 21 he or she should conduct a video conference call, or at least release a video on his or her YouTube channel, in which he or she discusses the role of the new office and other IT-related offices in the White House and OMB. Staff anxiety can run high during transitions. So the sooner the CTO communicates with the IT staff including CIOs, CTOs, and security and privacy officers, the better. She should outline high-level priorities and conduct a virtual listening tour by offering the IT community an opportunity to submit best practices and ideas for making the priorities reality.
It is always interesting to watch the election process and wonder what management style each candidate will bring into the office. Everyone assumed Bill Clinton would be a policy wonk and George W. Bush would bring a business school approach to the office. Mayor Bloomberg surprised everyone, except perhaps those who know him best, when he created a "bullpen" for an office.
Since our presumptive presidential nominees have more legislative than executive experience, making such projections on their management styles may be a bit more difficult. Watching the campaigns unfold, however, leads to one pretty clear conclusion: The use of the internet and web 2.0 technologies has changed forever the campaign landscape and inevitably those changes will make their way into the next administration.
Who would have imagined four years ago that CNN/YouTube presidential primary debates would be part of the mainstream campaign? Who would have thought that a leading contender for the nomination would announce her candidacy sitting in her living room via streaming video instead of a picturesque location surrounded by supporters and fanfare? Who would have guessed that FaceBook would include over a million people as part of candidate groups?
Clearly Sen. Barack Obama, more so than any other candidate, has mastered the use of the internet. He has raised more money on the internet and has a much larger Facebook following than John McCain. But I think it inevitable that regardless of who wins this campaign, public administration will be very different in the next four years. Both campaigns have young, creative staffers who understand that social networking is an integral part of our lifestyle today and that leading a government organization without using these tools essentially disenfranchises a larger and larger segment of the citizenry.
Many government officials already recognize the value of social networking. Our inside-the-beltway IT trade press have actively covered the leading agencies and officials using blogs and other web 2.0 tools. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) just announced his own YouTube station, and the Fairfax County Commissioners recently required that one pathway for this year's budget comments has to be through the use of social networking sites.
But what we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.
Just as we could not imagine four years ago a CNN/YouTube debate, most of us cannot begin to imagine the ways government will interact with citizens in the next decade. Without a doubt, agencies need to begin thinking about the power of enterprise social networking - that is, how to harness the power of tools popularly used today on an individual basis for the benefit of the enterprise.
Many of today's IT professionals were around when individuals with BlackBerries begin infiltrating their organizations. Tech staffs were typically not prepared for the influx of these devices. Likewise, many IT professionals witnessed the early use of instant messaging and were not prepared to support its use at the enterprise level.
These and other waves of technology adoption should have taught us some lessons.
The next wave of government executives to move into the White House, and governors' and mayors' residences will bring with them new waves of technology to manage their organizations and interact with citizens. Today's IT professionals would serve these new executives well by being prepared to embrace and support these technologies.
Searching through Wikipedia recently I came across the German word erfahung. It translates into English as “experience.” Like many translations, however, this one is not exact. In the German culture erfahung means, at least according to Wikipedia editors at the time I read the entry, the “coherency of life’s experiences.”
Here in the U.S., we talk about experience in government, sales, law, engineering—whatever the field. Rarely do we talk about the totality, or even better, the coherency of one’s life experiences.
I have found this topic interesting because I find myself in the position of having nearly 30 years of work experience (yes, I am getting old). That’s 22 years in state government in both executive and legislative realms, one year on a political campaign, four years in the federal government and now almost two in the private sector. My background has given me the ability to look at a public policy issue from many perspectives.
One of the most interesting issues to unfold in a broad way over the last few years has been the Real ID debate. Congress, the Bush administration, governors, state legislatures, advocacy groups, analysts and others have examined this problem up one side and down the other.
After the 9/11 attacks, a responsible Congress tried to take action to prevent similar abuses of driver’s license identity systems with what may perhaps be a less than elegant piece of legislation. Later, a new but overworked Homeland Security Department issued draft rules. Many state governors and legislatures dug in their heels with a “hell-no-we-won’t-go” attitude toward a statute and rules they perceived as another unfunded mandate, even if there was some merit in the end result.
Privacy groups cried “foul” and attempted to invoke hysteria around an alleged over-intrusive government.
I had to ask myself a few questions:
In the midst of the debate, one leader surfaced: Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington. While opposing the Real ID mandate, Gregoire showed leadership by putting another proposal on the table—the use of voluntary, enhanced driver’s licenses for crossing land borders. DHS, the very agency that issued the highly unpopular Real ID rules, is supporting this alternative approach, one that also addresses many of the concerns expressed above.
Brilliant! Washington State has now led the way for others to follow. Vermont, Maine and Arizona have indicated a willingness to become Real ID compliant through the enhanced driver’s license program. The world could use a few more leaders like Gov. Gregoire.