President-elect Barack Obama is addicted to his BlackBerry. Like many Americans who are glued to their wireless PDA for the latest snippet of news or information he doesn't want to give it up. Despite urging from White House lawyers and the Secret Service, in a recent interview with CNBC he said, "I'm still clinging to my BlackBerry...they're going to pry it out of my hands."
For Obama and millions of Americans who rely on these devices for personal and professional use, it is a matter of being connected - to friends, family, colleagues, news and in a greater sense the world. "What it has to do with is having mechanisms where you are interacting with people who are outside of the White House in a meaningful way," Obama said.
That level of connectivity comes at a cost and not just for the President of the United States. Average citizens may not have the same legal and security issues and concerns as the President, but they do have to be aware of the risks of open networks and the threats to privacy and financial security they pose.
Obama's dilemma highlights the ubiquitous nature of the digital lifestyle that many Americans lead, relying on digital communications and transactions to manage myriad facets of their lives from bank accounts and bill paying to Facebook pages and LinkedIn networks. The reliance on digital security has never been greater.
To its credit, the Obama Administration is taking steps to address these and other critical issues that impact our digital economy and increasingly networked personal lives. He is close to appointing the government's first technology czar or czarina, charged with leading an interagency effort to ensure the safety of our networks, share best practices and adopt best-in-class technologies. The new federal CTO will have a list of technology priorities to address that are outlined on the Obama Administration's transition Website www.change.gov. Those priorities include:
Obama's digital security plans are ambitious, but needed, and he has a track record of success in using technology to create greater transparency in government. As a first-term Senator from Illinois, Obama co-sponsored with conservative Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, now commonly referred to as "Google for Government." The recently passed law now enables the public to track over $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans online.
On January 20th, when President Obama is sworn into office it won't just be his BlackBerry on the line but ultimately the nation's ability to manage and secure the digital lifeblood of its citizens. Our new "Digerati-in-Chief" seems up to the task, but just in case we'll be watching, BlackBerrys in hand.