April 20, 2011
Obama's Tech Tools
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Slideshow: Obama's Tech Tools
The White House has released a new mobile application for Google's Android platform to complement an iPhone app that's already available.
The move comes a few days after President Obama complained about the lack of "really cool phones" and high-tech gadgets at the White House at a fundraising event when he thought he was out of earshot of reporters. The White House has had an iPhone application since January 2010 that's been downloaded more than 400,000 times, according to a blog post. On Wednesday, due to popular demand, Android users now can download an application that has similar features, providing users with alerts directly from the White House and access to behind-the-scenes photos and videos, according to the post. The application also provides users with the latest news from the White House blog and the Briefing Room site. The administration also has updated the White House iPhone application with a new feature that provides an alert if President Obama is about to speak and then lets people watch it live on the device. Nearly double the number of visitors to the WhiteHouse.gov site used mobile phones to access the site in the last two months than over the same period last year, according to the post. Some 6.6% of visits to WhiteHouse.gov, which itself is optimized for mobile browsers, came from the iOS or Android operating system in the last two months, versus 3.6% last year. A new Android application may not be the fancy technology Obama was expecting when he entered the White House, but it's a step in the right direction to support his goals to modernize federal IT and use technology to better engage with the public. At an event for campaign contributors last Thursday, Obama said he was expecting more from the technology at the White House when he took over as president and has been disappointed, according to a CBS News online report. "I always thought I was going to have like really cool phones and stuff," he said, according to the news outlet. "We can't get our phones to work." He also said that the White House is "like 30 years behind" in technology, according to CBS News. U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra echoed Obama's frustration in a statement released earlier this week about the president's comments. "The President is absolutely right," he said. "When we came into office, federal IT was undeniably broken." However, while Kundra and other IT leaders won't solve the problems "overnight," they are well on their way to "closing the technology gap between private and public sectors," he said. Federal agencies certainly have ramped up their release of mobile applications for consumer devices since Kundra has been CIO. On Tuesday the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense teamed up on a mobile app offering veterans help with post traumatic stress disorder, joining the Army, NASA, the FBI, the IRS, and other government agencies in providing mobile applications to bolster public engagement.
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