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3/22/2002
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IT Confidential

A hearing this week in Philadelphia may decide the fate of the Children's Internet Protection Act, a law passed two years ago that requires all federally funded libraries to install filtering software on their Internet-access terminals. The law is being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, which says it represents a range of clients: a 15-year-old girl and her aunt who don't have Internet access at home; two congressional candidates who say their Web sites were blocked; Planetout.com, a gay and lesbian Web site; and Planned Parenthood, whose Web site has information on contraceptive devices and other reproductive issues. According to the ACLU, there are more than 16,000 public libraries nationwide, and 95% of them provide Internet access. A three-judge panel from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will hear the case; any appeal of that panel's decision will go straight to the Supreme Court.

Attorney General John Ashcroft last week appointed the first-ever CIO for the Department of Justice. He's Vance Hitch, and he's responsible for implementing Ashcroft's Information Technology Strategic Plan, part of the attorney general's wartime reorganization and restructuring of the Justice Department announced in November. Hitch was a senior partner with IT consulting firm Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting), where he most recently developed an IT strategic plan for the state of Maryland and re-engineered Philadelphia's Records Department. Hitch also has worked with the National Security Agency, the CIA, and the Department of Defense, credentials that apparently helped get him the Justice Department gig. "A critical element of our battle against the terrorist threat is the effective use of information technology to share information across law enforcement," Ashcroft said in a statement.

ConocoPhillips, which will be the third-largest oil producer later this year if the proposed merger of industry players Conoco and Phillips Petroleum is approved, laid out the structure of its upper-management team last week. In IT, Gene Batchelder, currently VP and CIO of Phillips, will have the same title at the combined entity. No word, though, on what will happen to Conoco's CIO, Tom Nicewarner. But a spokesman for ConocoPhillips says a co-CIO approach "wouldn't be prudent," given the merged company's effort to consolidate and establish an individual identity.

Things have been patched up between Oracle and the Oracle Applications Users Group, says Tom Wyatt, newly elected president of the fiercely independent organization, which represents more than 2,000 companies that use Oracle's apps. Wyatt, director of Oracle systems for teleservices firm Sitel says Oracle will support the group's spring conference in Toronto in May, but that will be its last spring conference, according to a deal worked out between the two last year. Oracle had withdrawn its support for the group's conferences, refusing to send company representatives and insisting it merge both its spring and fall conferences with Oracle's own AppsWorld conference, generally held in the spring. Instead, the user group agreed to eliminate its spring conference and concentrate on its fall get-together.

What's culture got to do with it? At last week's InformationWeek Spring Conference in Amelia Island, Fla., a lively discussion emerged during a session titled "Culture Counts: Collaborative Business From The Inside Out." Julie St. John, chief technology officer of Fannie Mae, said the Washington financial-services firm has a technology culture that extends all the way to the CEO, which may be a mixed blessing. "I go in [his office] and he's debating XML with me," St. John said. On the other hand, Marriott's consensus-driven culture has its own drawbacks, said Barry Shuler, CTO of the hospitality chain. "I spend 90% of my time trying to get to 'yes' on spending," Shuler said, "and 10% of my time on technology architecture."

Wait, 90% negotiating versus 10% doing--sounds like my marriage. But the "yes" I'm trying to get to doesn't only have to do with spending. I'll say yes to an industry tip if you send it to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to discuss the Internet and free speech, vendor influence, or corporate culture, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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