Skip to main content

America's chief technologist has to use a BlackBerry and a 2013 Dell laptop

America's chief technologist has to use a BlackBerry and a 2013 Dell laptop


And the government still uses floppy disks

Share this story

Earlier this year, Google executive Megan Smith left the private sector to serve as the US chief technology officer under President Barack Obama. At the time, she was hoping to infuse the government with Silicon Valley know-how, as the administration was still reeling from its disastrous rollout. But four months later, she appears to have run up against the reality of federal bureaucracy. As The New York Times reports, she's even had to trade in her devices for decidedly more archaic fare:

"...the woman whose division at Google dreamed up Google Glass and the driverless car is facing culture shock in a federal bureaucracy ruled by creaky technology and run in part on the floppy disk.

Not only does she now carry a BlackBerry, she uses a 2013 Dell laptop: new by government standards, but clunky enough compared with the cutting-edge devices of her former life that her young son asked what it was."

Those tools haven't stopped Smith from getting things done. She played a critical role in shaping Obama's position on net neutrality, set up a maker space to develop protective gear during the Ebola outbreak, and has advised the president on ways to bring more technologists into the administration. And although some have questioned the purpose and power of the CTO, Smith seems undeterred in her campaign to fix the government's tech problems. "We're on it," she tells the Times.