vrijdag, november 07, 2008

Obama's CTO

Despite all the serenity I predicted for 2009, I followed the US election night in that typical mashup style of now: on the couch with my Apple laptop, one window open with Google Docs (I was writing a column for a magazine), EyeTV television in another, a few additional news sites open and – of course – a live Twitter feed.

What can I say? it’s still 2008.

Whatever political preference, nobody can deny Barack Obama’s obvious charisma. One day before the elections I noticed him giving a speech, somewhere on a remote TV screen in a shopping street. There was no sound and there were no subtitles. It may be a platitude by now, but the sheer intensity of his appearance gave me goose bumps. It is the same intensity that stimulated many to vote for the first time in their life. It is the same intensity that makes you believe that change actually can occur. Just a bit more of that Obama-style leadership in our profession, and I am sure we would see many more successful transformation projects and programmes.

And obviously, there are other ways in which Obama inspires us business / technology people. He may not have invented the Internet himself (that was Al Gore) but he convincingly demonstrated how to use the Web 2.0 tool kit – social networks, viral video’s, blogs, RSS, to name just a few – to reach and mobilise an unprecedentedly big community. Indeed, elections will never be the same again (but please, don’t call it Elections 2.0). And now, in the transition period towards the new Administration, the Internet is used to engage with citizens and collect their ideas. Actually, people who aspire a position in the new Administration are urged to do this through the site, as “applying on-line is the fastest and most accurate way to get your information to us”.

Probably the strongest proof of Obama’s believe in technology is his plan to appoint a national Chief Technology Officer. This will be a cabinet position with the mission to explore the opportunities of innovative technology to create new jobs and restore America’s competiveness on the world markets.

No half measures. And quite a strong message to many corporations that struggle with the role of IT in business. This is far from the marginalised position of an IT manager who apathetically reports to the CFO about cost cutting and risk management. This is a boardroom position, one that is supposed to create strong impulses for change and growth.

Given the names that have been suggested so far as possible candidates (Google’s Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and yes, even Steve Ballmer; guess they won’t need the website to apply) we may expect some interesting meetings at the White House in the forthcoming years.

And – of course – a thin coating of metals, plastics and chemicals around the Oval Office.

First published on Capgemini's CTO blog.

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