Obama Tech Advisor Struggles to Bring Federal Government into the Google Age



Megan J. Smith is a highly skilled techie. She graduated from MIT and worked at Google in the division that created the driverless vehicle and Google Glasses. However, the 50-year-old is finding it a lot harder to bring about change in a monolithic White House bureaucracy mired in protocol, regulations, and a culture not exactly known for progressive change. To underscore just how much resistance Ms. Smith gets to adopting new technology, the former Google executive’s work laptop is a 2013 Dell laptop. Her work cell phone is a Blackberry. It’s not exactly the pimped out technology that is representative of a person of her stature. But, like my friend Ben Shaoul said, it is considered new by government standards.

Smith was appointed as the president’s Technology Adviser five years ago. She found herself caught up in the public firestorm when Obamacare rolled out. At the time, she tried to reassure the public that the administration was “on it”. Despite her obstacles, she believes she has been effective in her role. In fact, she takes some credit for the president finally taking a stand in favor of preserving Net Neutrality.

Smith has also counseled the president on how to recruit top IT talent with a focus on recruiting women. At this time, all but one of the five divisions of the Office of Science and Technology Policy are under the direction of a woman. At the same time, critics point out that the president has been unable to clearly define the role of chief technology adviser.

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