Some tech worries for the new Commander-in-Chief - and the rest of us:
At the top of my list are Micro SD cards, with the "SD" standing for Secure
Digital, a card format that's rather popular for cell phones and some cameras.
There's a tremendous boon in being able to put as much as 16 Gigabytes on a card
that's smaller than a postage stamp and shorter than a paper clip's length. But
there's also a tremendous danger: such devices, which truly are tiny, can be
easily concealed, connected (via an equally small card reader) to a computer's USB
port, and used to transport sensitive data out of a building.
Of course, installations with high-security needs already ban such devices, as does
most of the Department of Defense, which suffered a computer virus attack imported
via a larger "memory stick" last year. But in some offices there may be little
or nothing to stop a disgruntled employee from spiriting out a sneak peek at next
year's budget or this year's white paper and handing it over to a reporter,
friendly or hostile. Or give it to someone else. Data security will likely be a top
priority for the new administration, and, in my view, it should be.
Next up is the potential for online social media to enhance - and obstruct - the
next administration's agenda.
There's nothing like Facebook or Twitter to make mass communication to a defined
niche as nearly instant as possible. Old-fashioned telephone trees or call-down
lists can't cut it, and e-mail can get lost in a sea of spam. But if I get a
Facebook status message from you, that can be important and informative. A short
clip on YouTube can have tremendous reach, as the "Obama Girl" video ably
Given that as President-elect Mr. Obama put his weekly addresses on YouTube and
that Facebook's millions played a not-insubstantial role in the election, it would
appear that he and his team are aware of what social media can do. The question is
how this will be harnessed for good, and how it might be abused by less friendly
Here, too, information security will play a role. Again, I'm sure this is being
thought about, but it's an area of potential concern: messing with a Presidential
video could create problems.
A third area where attention should be paid, in my view, is the question of
broadband access. Korea and Japan are doing better jobs of providing high-speed
broadband to their citizens than the U.S. is, as a whole, and this needs to change.
If you don't believe me, let's talk after Tuesday's expected mass-gridlock.
Having a solid, high-speed and high capacity broadband infrastructure would let more
of us work from home, at least part time, and that could help when roads are clogged
or gas prices soar.
(It appears Mr. Obama is in sync with this. On January 10, in an Internet address,
he said part of the new economic stimulus would go to "build the new
infrastructure we need to succeed in this new century, investing in science and
technology, and laying down miles of new broadband lines so that businesses across
our nation can compete with their counterparts around the world.")
And along with access to the global network, we need to figure out access to
information: Google's plan to digitize most of the nation's out-of-print books,
and many of its more current ones, is a great idea. But should this move from the
commercial to the non-commercial realm? Fair handling of copyright questions could
It'll be a full tech agenda, and I've barely scratched the surface. We can hope,
however, that the issues will be addressed aggressively, and with both consumers and
businesspeople in mind.