Do you have any of the following hardware in your home?
- A modern desktop phone?
- Reliable Wi-Fi?
- A color printer?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then congratulations: your house is more technologically advanced than the White House.
The (Technological) Elephant in the Oval Office
The need for technology upgrades at the seat of American political power is no big secret. While movies and TV shows make it appear as though “[We] have half a fingerprint and a half an hour later I’m tracking a guy on streets of Istanbul”, the President admitted:
Instead of state-of-the-art telecommunications equipment, White House staffers have been using desktop phones so old few people know how to program the speed-dial buttons on them. And as for printing, you may be impressed to learn that one of the President’s legacies in his final year of office is the installation of double-sided color printers at the White House. How’s that for leaving something behind for future generations?
The White House does Internet by Committee
But why would the most protected building on the planet, housing the most powerful man on earth, be relying on such outdated technology in the first place? The answer is that the responsibility for White House technology is overseen by four different agencies: the National Security Council, the Executive Office of the President, the Secret Service, and the White House Communications Agency. And to make things even more complicated, each agency has their own Chief Information Officer.
This fragmented approach means that any major overhaul to White House technology would require the approval of all four agencies. So instead, each agency carried out piecemeal upgrades and negotiated its own contracts with service providers over the years, resulting in patchwork fixes instead of full-scale upgrades.
It seems that the White House’s time in the tech basement is about to end, though. A news story earlier this week reports that big changes are underway at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Out are 13,000 pounds worth of abandoned cables, and in is David Recordon, the inaugural Director of White House Information Technology, who previously served as an Engineering Director at Facebook.
After removing the mountain of old cables, Recordon and his team have started to replace the old White House computers with the latest models – boasting fast, solid-state drives and modern processors. In addition, an all-digital phone system has just been introduced, which comes with built-in speakers and speed-dial buttons that can be programmed online.
Obama Just Wants an iPhone
Amidst all the progress, there is still much more work to be done. While the technological upgrades will provide improved visitor management and building security in addition to allowing staffers to use iPhones at work, the President is still stuck with his old (but secured) BlackBberry.
And although there are security concerns with allowing the leader of the free world to change to the iPhone, the President can rest easy about his online privacy and data security like the rest of us.
After all, he can just use a VPN.