When Barack Obama begins opening the windows of the White House to let out that dank Bush smell, he's also airing out eight years of uninspired technology policy.
It's no secret that Bush's presidency left a sour taste in many nerds' mouths. In 2007, he shut down the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, an agency that promoted U.S. innovation around the world, and failed to develop a robust broadband network. Bush was something of a poster child for Luddites, calling one of the world's biggest websites "the Google."
Obama could just broadcast his weekly YouTube addresses and do more for "the Internets" than Bush ever did. But he's also committed to using technology to create "a new level of transparency, accountability and participation."
He's not only re-establishing the senior status of the assistant to the president for science and technology, but he's also creating the new cabinet position of chief technology officer. (I hear Steve Jobs is available.)
The assistant position, given to energy policy expert John Holdren, has been reinstated by the Obama team in a show of support for science's expanded role in the current administration.
Holdren has been a long-time supporter of imposing a mandatory limit on greenhouse gases to avoid escalating climate change. That can only be promising for Obama's enviro policies. And advocates say the position, like that of the chief technology officer, could address sci-tech issues in a way that does not too steeply add to the deficit.
Obama also supports the principle of Net neutrality, of keeping open competition alive and well on the Internet, while also planning to make affordable high-speed Internet available to as many Americans as possible. Companies that build broadband networks in areas without service could get as much as 60 per cent of their investment back in tax credits.
Anyone who paid attention during campaign 08 could've seen the Webified Obama coming. He took online fundraising to a new level, pulling in $500 million in online donations from more than 3 million people, compared to party adversary Howard Dean's $27 million, for example.
Web surfers spent 14 million hours watching campaign-related Obama videos on YouTube, making John McCain look like Grampa Simpson.
He told the world he would make government files more accessible to the public and would post agencies' data online.
Here's a president who doesn't want his BlackBerry taken away come Inauguration Day, January 20. But he'll have to give it up; the prez can't send email for security reasons.
Some cynics wonder whether Obama can live up to his claim that he can fulfill the hope for change. How he follows through on his technology promises could be an important indicator of whether the president-elect is going to walk the talk.