In his Saturday radio address, President Obama named Chopra to the national CTO spot and Jeffrey Zients as chief innovation officer.
"Aneesh and Jeffrey will work closely with our chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, who is responsible for setting technology policy across the government and using technology to improve security, ensure transparency and lower costs," Obama said.
Chopra's formal title is Associate Director of Technology in the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy. It is not a Cabinet-level position as had been originally suggested, but Chopra will be working closely with Kundra and the other top technologists in the Obama administration.
Back in February, Channelweb.com asked VARs and the broader channel community what they wanted to see in a national CTO. Now that the dust has settled and the Obama technology team is more or less in place, here are five reasons Chopra is a good choice for the job:
1. He's well respected.
Kundra and Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior were the initially speculated finalists in the national CTO discussion, along with such tech sector luminaries as Google's Eric Schmidt and Microsoft's Steve Ballmer. Chopra's name was floated later, but he came on strong, and in government technology circles, he's a celebrity. In 2008 the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) ranked Virginia as the No. 1 state for technology management -- one of many accolades Chopra has received for his three-year run in Virginia.
2. He's tight with Kundra.
While the responsibilities of the national CTO were until recently fairly vaguely described, it's clear that whatever Chopra's role, he will work hand in hand with CIO Kundra, his friend and former colleague. According to the White House, "The responsibilities of the CIO are to use information technology to transform the ways in which the government does business. The CTO will develop national strategies for using advanced technologies to transform our economy and our society, such as fostering private sector innovation, reducing administrative costs and medical errors using health IT, and using technology to change the ways teachers teach and students learn."
3. He's not a Silicon Valley insider -- and that might be a good thing.
Sure, Chopra isn't a Silicon Valley veteran, which to some means he's lacking a certain something. (TechCrunch, for example, led its coverage Friday with the headline "Obama Spurns Silicon Valley Vets, Names Virginia's Secretary of Technology As CTO.") But as President Obama has described it, the role is of someone who can bridge the gaps between technology and government by understanding the challenges each side has in working with the other. A policy maker who evangelizes technology might be the best way to meet in the middle.
4. He has a health-care background.
According to his bio, Chopra received the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's (HIMSS) 2007 State Leadership Advocacy Award, and before joining Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's cabinet, was managing director at the Advisory Board Company, a health-care think tank with 2,500 hospital and health-system clients. In some estimations, bringing health care IT into the 21st century represents one of the biggest challenges facing the Obama administration and the IT industry in general. It's nice to know the national CTO is someone who knows a little bit about it.
5. His triumphs in Virginia align with national stimulus priorities.
IT's role in education, national broadband availability, health care and getting state and local governments up to speed all are key points of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Specific to Virginia, Chopra's greatest hits include being able to integrate iTunes U's free educational media collection with Virginia's state education framework; creating a social networking platform through Ning to connect small health-care offices all over the state; helping to get the country's first Web-based, open source textbook -- The 21st Century Physics Flexbook -- up and running; and helping advance Virginia's efforts to bring broadband to rural communities.
His success in each should help Chopra join the president in tackling national IT priorities.
"None of this will be easy. Big change never is. But with the leadership of these individuals, I am confident that we can break our bad habits, put an end to the mismanagement that has plagued our government and start living within our means again," said President Obama in his Saturday address. "That is how we will get our deficits under control and move from recovery to prosperity. And that is how we will give the American people the kind of government they expect and deserve -- one that is efficient, accountable and fully worthy of their trust."
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