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Analysis: US President Obama’s tech savviness

Barack Obama, the shiny new President of the US, is as much a geek as the rest of us - but how will this affect his policy?

Barack Obama has swept into American politics promising a wind of change and one way it will come is through technology.

Unlike Bill Clinton or George W. Bush before him or even any British Prime Minister Obama seems to use technology in the same way most business people do: constantly and with confidence.

His successful campaign capitalised on social networks and the web much better than any other previous candidate. While Howard Dean in 2004 managed to get an internet-friendly grassroots movement going, he was ultimately the victim of his own success when a goofy video of him screaming at the end of a speech took the web by storm. Obama's rival John McCain may have had a few friends on Facebook, but he failed to use Twitter, texting or any other youthful technology with any real success, while the new president raised hundreds of millions of dollars.

BlackBerry addiction

Not only has Obama and his team figured out web campaigning, but the man is as addicted to mobile email and his BlackBerry as the rest of us are to our phones. Famously, his wife Michelle once publicly told him off for checking his BlackBerry during his daughter's football game. There's also been much controversy over whether the new commander-in-chief will get to keep the device after he takes office today Obama himself claimed they'd have to pry it from his hands, and if the latest reports are true, he's managed to convince his handlers he needs his BlackBerry in the Oval Office.

Saying he expected to keep the device, Obama told the CNN television network that his BlackBerry was "just one tool among a number of tools that I'm trying to use, to break out of the bubble. To make sure that people can still reach me. But if I'm doing something stupid, somebody in Chicago can send me an e-mail and say, 'What are you doing?'"

It's not as though Bush or Clinton or Blair were incapable of using this technology; children use it, after all indeed, Obama's girls apparently got a Wii for Christmas. What it does show is that Obama is using technology like the rest of us, a sharp change from the email illiterates who have previously held the highest offices, preferring to stick to old-school methods or letting their assistants handle the gadgets.

But what does this mean when it comes to his policy?

In his career as a senator, Obama claims to have boosted funding to women and minorities in science and technology education and passed a law to make government data as searchable as the internet. During his campaign, his website promised Obama's dedication to net neutrality and privacy online.

Since then but before he takes office Obama has pushed technology as a way to improve America's green credentials and promised $150 million in funding to help develop it. He also got behind a Democratic funding package to boost the economy, which included $2 billion for school computers, $6 billion for broadband, $20 billion for health information technology and even $650 million for digital television transfers.

Position vacant

Intriguingly, Obama also created a chief technology officer role, which has yet to be filled.

This is good news for many international and UK-based tech firms, which stand to win contracts from this massive spending, and adds pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to do the same here. The government's report on broadband funding is due later this month how can they not invest in super-fast broadband when the new and oh-so-popular President of the US has?

Indeed, the change Obama's bringing will put pressure on the UK government to keep up and invest in technology as they should, lest we get left behind in the dust from the American winds of change.

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