President-elect Barack Obama will be the first Internet savvy president in history. Addicted to his BlackBerry, rarely working with hard copies, and staying in contact with his friends through cyberspace, America's 44th president will truly be the first 21st century president.
The New York Times has a fascinating piece on Obama, his use of technology, and the incompatibility of being president and being on-line. The President-elect is accustomed to working in a 21st century environment, for example rarely working with hard copies on the campaign trail: "Mr. Obama’s memorandums and briefing books were seldom printed out and delivered to his house or hotel room, aides said. They were simply sent to his BlackBerry for his review. If a document was too long, he would read and respond from his laptop computer, often putting his editing changes in red type."
However, because of major challenges including cyber security and the implications of the Presidential Records Act, subpoenas and all, Obama will likely have to surrender his BlackBerry and his ability to email--a difficult move for someone so reliant on the device for work and play: "For years, like legions of other professionals, Mr. Obama has been all but addicted to his BlackBerry. The device has rarely been far from his side — on most days, it was fastened to his belt — to provide a singular conduit to the outside world as the bubble around him grew tighter and tighter throughout his campaign....But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas."
Obama is, however, considering having a laptop in the Oval, probably a compromise his aides and the President-elect could live with: "Mr. Obama...seems intent on pulling the office at least partly into the 21st century on that score; aides said he hopes to have a laptop computer on his desk in the Oval Office, making him the first American president to do so." So perhaps in a few months we all may see a picture of the 44th president, sitting at the Resolute Desk, typing away on his laptop. When that happens, we will know for certain that we really are living in the 21st century.