Should we be concerned that Janet Napolitano doesn’t do email?

The Homeland Security Secretary appears to not be technically inclined and that might not be a good thing

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You won't catch DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano checking email during a press conference

Image credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Bit of an odd story out of Washington on Tuesday, where Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that she doesn’t use email. She told a group of reporters that email is inefficient and “sucks up time.” Her preferred method of communication is the telephone, and her staff makes sure that important messages get through to her. She said that avoiding email “allows me to focus on where I need to focus.”

When I first read this, I thought, “Good for her!” She’s in a fairly important role, I think we can all agree, and no doubt has a big staff to help weed through people trying to contact her. Why waste her time deleting emails about NCAA office pools, free pizza in the Homeland Security office kitchen and that pair of gloves found in the ladies’ bathroom? Let her focus on more important things.

After a little more thought, though, I wondered if this was really was a good thing. It turns out she didn’t just stop using email when she took over DHS in 2009; she gave it up 10 years ago when she became governor of Arizona in 2003. She also said doesn’t text or tweet. The more I thought about it, the more I’m thinking she’s just not much into technology.

To me, that’s not an ideal trait in the person heading up this particular department. After all, cyberthreats only seem to be getting greater with each passing day. Shouldn’t the person ultimately in charge of homeland security at least have a passing interest in technology, if for no other reason than to better understand some of the threats her department is supposed to help protect us against? 

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. What do you think? Do you admire her for being old school in this way, or do you think this is a bit worrisome (or at least a little odd)? 

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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