The Aussie who became IT manager for the US President

George Bush was accompanied by four trucks filled with tech gear

Tasked with managing the ICT requirements of United States President George Bush, an IT professional could be forgiven for allowing their high tech fantasies to go into overdrive. But according to Intercontinental IT manager Ben Wrigley, the job is more like a step back in time.

Wrigley was given the mammoth task of coordinating and overseeing the president's communications needs during his recent visit to Australia for the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit in September, 2007.

Wrigley said he approached the challenge like any other IT project, well almost. This was "Project President" and Wrigley willingly admits it was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity.

However, he is quick to point out that reality is very different to all the Hollywood movies featuring the White House as the backdrop to the latest cutting edge technologies used by presidential aides.

In fact, Wrigley said much of the President's communications gear can only be described as "antiquated".

This is because it is used in both first-world and third-world countries. For example, after APEC the President was heading to Uganda and the gear remains unchanged.

"Old PSTN switching works and this gear has to work in any country on the globe; it is tried and tested technology," Wrigley explained.

"The old voice switching technology and cabling connectors were so old that the young techies on staff didn't know how to set it up."

As a result one of the primary providers, Telstra, had to call in three senior technicians that were more than 65 years of age to assist.

But it wasn't all old-world technology, Wrigley said there was some IP-based gear and certainly a lot of satellite technology.

"There is an entire section of the President's entourage dedicated to satellite," he said.

"I saw two satellite dishes when they were here but there was a lot more."

It was Wrigley's job to liaise with the Whitehouse Communications Agency, which set up the communications gear from country to country, and pull it down again ready to move-on in line with the President's itinerary.

Prior to the president's arrival Wrigley had to meet a series of deadlines which included ensuring all infrastructure was in place as well as negotiate and engage with a number of external service providers leading up to APEC.

"It is pretty much a set-play for the agency staff as the President travels alot; they need infrastructure that works so the focus is on reliability," he said.

"There is a gigantic checklist of gear that has been tried and tested."

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