Is America ready for its first BlackBerry president?

Experts say it probably doesn't matter whether the next US president actually uses information technology

The next US president could shape cybersecurity, government research initiatives, intellectual property laws, and wired and wireless communications services in ways that affect both enterprise IT executives and average citizens. Yet some experts say he could handle all this without having Twittered, texted or even used a PC, although his familiarity with information technologies might strongly affect his policies.

Much has been made in the media of a seemingly wide gulf in tech smarts between Republican John McCain, who has described letting his wife handle his computer tasks, and Democrat Barack Obama, who has appeared on video using a BlackBerry while walking down the street.

President George W. Bush has been ridiculed for talking about rumors on "the Internets," but only one other president has even been in office in the age of the Web, laptops and ubiquitous cell phones. The expectation that a president "gets it" regarding IT is a fairly new one. Yet whatever the result of the November election, cutting-edge technology seems to be entering the realm of elected officials for good.

About half the members of the US Senate use BlackBerry devices, estimates Louis Libin, CEO of unified communications vendor PhoneFusion, who has set up the networks for the past five Democratic and Republican nominating conventions. Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and McCain rival, gave every member of his campaign team a BlackBerry and carried one himself, according to David Palmer, a senior consultant and technical architect at Molecular, a digital marketing company that handled Romney's Web site. On Monday, Obama announced via the microblogging site Twitter that he would alert his supporters via text message immediately after he chose his running mate for vice president.

Several observers in the IT industry and scholars who study the intersection of technology and policy say it will be important for future presidents to grasp IT issues.

"To the extent that we think the Internet economy ... is a major source of value-creating activity in the US economy and a major source of social experience for lots of Americans, it seems to me really critical that the president understand what that's about," said Steven Weber, a professor of political science at UC Berkeley.

Some believe IT issues are so central that they should guide the choice of a chief executive.

"The president should come from a technology background and understand technology at a high level," said Avi Silberschatz, chairman of the Computer Science Department at Yale University. "It would be good if the person at the helm of the country had an appreciation of the changes taking place as we speak." One critical issue is spending on research and development, which has fallen in the past 10 years, leaving the US trailing other countries, he said.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?