More Computing Power on Your Belt Than at Your Desk?

In a blog posting, Tom Shoop raised a question about a sentence in my speech yesterday that, "at one time, a federal worker went to the office and had access to cutting-edge computer power and programs. Now, he often has more of both clipped to a device on his belt." Tom noted that as impressive as it is, he wasn’t sure that his Android-based Smartphone has anywhere near the computing power of even an eight- or ten-year-old PC.

This exchange raises an interesting question: what do we mean by "computing power and programs?" By what have been historic standards in measuring computer power – memory, processing speed, number of transistors, etc. – Tom is clearly right to be skeptical. Even a relatively old desktop beats the pants off my Blackberry. But today you can make a very good argument that "cutting-edge computer power and programs" may be best defined as one’s ability to use technology to interact with the world in a rapid, user-friendly way. And on my personal Blackberry, I can track the status of a shipment, buy goods and services, make travel, hotel and restaurant reservations, and collaborate with friends and colleagues – all online pretty much anytime and anywhere. These types of applications – many in the "cloud" – are the real revolution going on today.

Such innovative uses of technology are scarce to nonexistent within the Federal Government. For example, there is no Federal government equivalent to the over 200,000 applications that have become available to iPhone users in the short time since it has been sold. This kind of rapid development and implementation of useful services is what I really mean by "computing power and programs." It’s the model the Federal government needs to adopt to improve its efficiency, effectiveness, and delivery of services to the American people.

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