Much has been made of President Obama's use of a BlackBerry and how it symbolizes his understanding of the transformational power of information technology. Yet beyond his addiction to mobile e-mail, this president has done a few other things in his short tenure that spotlight his understanding of the power of IT.
The first was his pledge to name a Cabinet-level chief information officer, which he did last month with the appointment of the District of Columbia's former CTO, Vivek Kundra (who, as of this writing, is on leave while an FBI bribery investigation into his former office concludes). We know that part of the mission for the first U.S. CIO will be to cut spending and reduce complexity while boosting innovation (a familiar conundrum for CIOs everywhere).
Earlier, the president had issued his memorandum on "Transparency and Open Government," which calls on the CTO to coordinate with the director of the office of management and budget and the administrator of general services in developing an Open Government Directive. That directive would drive executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to make the government transparent, participatory and collaborative.
President Obama also underscored his belief in technology through the US$789 billion stimulus package. He's allocated close to $21 billion for the healthcare industry, with a focus on establishing electronic health records (EHR). There is $3 billion earmarked to enable healthcare providers to buy IT systems and another $18 billion toward Medicare and Medicaid programs that encourage technology use to improve patient care.
An important footnote to all this is that hospitals and eligible professionals will suffer penalties through reduced Medicare reimbursement payments if they do not become meaningful users of EHR by 2015, as reported by WTN News.
All of the above sends a clear and welcome signal that our new commander in chief will truly leverage the power of IT during his tenure in the White House. The swift allocation of funding is certainly a laudable first step. But as everyone in business knows, the most critical step comes next. It's all about execution. Stay tuned...
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