Monday, 20 April 2009

Obama names first US chief technology officer

US President Barack Obama has named a Harvard-educated Indian-American to the newly created post of chief technology officer in an appointment much-awaited by Silicon Valley.
read more | digg story

The move to an e-White House has inched closer with the appointment of a Chief Technology Officer in the US. However, one of the major hindrances for Obama's vision of an open democracy using new media technologies is the barriers created by antiquated practices:
But hopes that the president can unleash a technology revolution and create a new e-White House in government have come up against antiquated government technology and privacy and security restrictions.
The implementation of new media technologies is essentially contested. Privacy represents individual liberties whereas security represents the collective good. It is difficult to improve one without impinging upon the other.

There are no quick solutions to the individual liberties/public good dilemma, but there are ramifications for getting it wrong. At least in the US, some steps are being taken toward overcoming the traditional barriers to new media use. However, Australia is nowhere near this level of consideration in the policy process. While it may be happening in-house, the public are simply left out.

What must happen is an open, public debate to determine the public interest. There are some specific questions which must be addressed: What is more important, individual privacy or national security? Are issues concerning individual privacy and national security more important than a technologically-driven and open democracy? How important are social media to the economy and standards of living?

Australia tends to adopt a wait-and-see approach which has advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage is that resources are not wasted on dead-end approaches. The major disadvantage is that developing a national culture of innovation remains a pipe dream.

The promise of the digital revolution is on our doorstep now. It remains to be seen whether the federal government will open the door or wait to see what the neighbours do before acting. The trouble with the latter approach is that we are always one step behind.

Given our small population and vast resources, we have the capacity to take the lead in the use of new media as the NBN is rolled out. However, as the US is discovering, antiquated practices are a major hindrance.

Ordinary citizens have few options unless the federal government takes the lead. But the first step is to have the public debate, and new media are the vehicles which will enable the debate to happen.

We are all waiting. Your move, Mr Rudd.

Creative Commons License Except where indicated otherwise, Le Flâneur Politique by Michael de Percy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License. Based on a work at politicalscience.com.au. Background image ©Depositphotos.com/ @redshinestudio