We Finally Have a U.S. CTO
Most high-tech professionals haven't heard his name before, but soon, many will be talking about Aneesh Chopra, the latest appointment to the Obama administration, as the federal Chief Technology Officer. After months of speculation, Chopra, announced by the president on Saturday, is on the job.
Chopra is known as being intelligent, engaging, and effective. Having served as Secretary of Technology for the State of Virginia since 2003, his focus has been on statewide technology strategy, government form, and technology-related economic development, all of which apply directly to the tasks he will be performing at the federal level. As Tim O'Reilly puts it, "Chopra has a real focus on measurement, and on figuring out what really works."
With a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard and experience in streamlining healthcare technology, it looks as if the administration will be leaning heavily on Chopra for expertise in how to tackle some of our most challenging national problems. Working closely with Vivek Kundra, the new federal CIO and Jeffrey Zients, the Chief Performance Officer, Chopra will be part of a tight team in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. If there's any area where people expect results, it's technology innovation.
Although some have reported the appointment as a slap in the face of Silicon Valley and established tech industry professionals, as O'Reilly points out, "industry experience does little to prepare you for the additional complexities of working within the bounds of government policy, competing constituencies, budgets that often contain legislative mandates," etc. According to the Wall Street Journal, experienced technology leaders like Eric Schmidt of Google and Mitch Kapor of Lotus (and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) applaud the choice.
In the days and months to come as the Obama administration lays out their agenda for technology, we can expect Chopra, along with Kundra, to be behind much of those plans. On top of lofty goals of transparency and reform, they will need to prove their strategies work on an unprecedented scale.