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Work in progress for a smarter White House

The American president’s office-cum-residence is, actually, just another government office. The 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has long lagged behind in terms of using technology for efficiency. It has been “relying in large part on face-to-face meetings and mountains of paper to conduct business.” But things started changing slowly after the very first black president, who is also a Blackberry-freak, moved into the White House.

Since Barack Obama took office, the White House has established a dedicated digital team, started tallying incoming phone calls electronically instead of by calculator and has begun using computer software to design ­floral arrangements. His media monitor tracks thousands of tweets and some 50 publications online every day. Casework is sent by e-mail instead of using human couriers.

Obama’s top aides, like many other federal employees, still use BlackBerry cellphones. While many Americans have switched to iPhones or Android devices, the government has been slow to change because of security concerns. The Pentagon’s White House Communications Agency has started testing Samsung smartphones but has not made the switch.

Meanwhile, the digitization has also greatly influenced the formulation of policy.

Sometimes the White House’s digital features — such as an online petitions tool launched in 2011 — have influenced the policy process. The administration decided to crack down on puppy mills and pushed to legalize cellphone unlocking because of petitions. The platform has reached more than 14 million people — a database that administration officials use to send targeted e-mails based on subject interest.

Hopefully the White House will have digital metamorphosis without being snooped by NSA. Full report by Washington Post.


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