It almost seems trivial to note this on a day otherwise marked my tremendous symbolism and pomp but we now have our first technologically-savvy President. From his attachment to his Blackberry to the campaign’s dramatic and powerful uses of social networking, this is the very first time the country has been led by someone who understands, embraces and even demands technology utilization.
As far back as 1984, when I was working at General Instrument, I learned the power of a chief executive who understood the power of technology. GI in those days had an email system, linking facilities around the world. However, its utilization was spotty. There were a not-inconsiderable number of tech junkies — this was a technology company, after all — who loved the immediacy that email offered. There was, however, a much larger population of people involved in manufacturing and operations, disciplines that had largely been untouched by technology back in those days. The higher up in the organization you went, the less likely they were to use the email system. The net result was that for reliable communications, to update the “systems of record,” you had to use “traditional” forms of communications. Fortunately, however, GI was led by a CEO (Frank Hickey) who understood the potential of electronic communications. He decreed that certain of his key reports be submitted to him electronically. As you might imagine, the trickle-down was almost immediate and within a matter of months, the number of users on the email system had grown several orders of magnitude and the number of messages grew even more so. Being in charge of the PC implementation as I was, the number of PCs in the company grew in a year from under 100 to over 1,000.
Clearly, there is power in a chief executive who understands, and demands, the use of technology. Already this morning, I’ve seen stories on TV about how Obama is still fighting to retain his Blackberry and how his transition team has had to rely on Gmail prior to their .gov email addresses going live. I hope this means that, much as my experience at GI, the country experiences a significant trickle-down effect, where we more effectively utilize technology to effectively communicate. We have just scratched the surface of how social technologies are going to change the way we live and work. I am optimistic that under our new President, we will embrace those changes in some profound ways not capable had another man been elected.
Tomorrow, the reality of the economy and my personal situation may temper my enthusiasm (just a little), but for today, I’m hugely excited about the future and what this Presidency means for technology, business and people.