Thursday, August 06, 2009

CTO Aneesh Chopra says technology can’t be siloed in government by Kim-Mai Cutler

When U.S. government chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra first came to the White House, his Internet browser was so old, he couldn’t even access his account. It was just one tiny piece of the mountain of infrastructure Chopra must overhaul as part of his newly created position.

Although the U.S. is leading the rest of the world in global competitiveness measures like educational attainment and IT infrastructure, its rate of change is stagnant or even negative, Chopra said at a speech at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum today. Chopra said he’s focused on advising the president on policy and how to pick the best emerging technologies and implement them in other parts of the government.

“Technology has often been viewed as a box unto itself and areas like health were treated as silos,” he said. “We have to bring in new technologies and make sure they get baked into operations.”

Chopra said he’s constantly balancing between near-term results that can be measured in 30, 60 or 90-day intervals and long-term objectives. He breaks the job into three parts: Investing in innovation, making sure there’s secure infrastructure and creating a workforce that meets 21st century needs. But it’s not about dictating whether military officers can or cannot use Twitter.

Some initial projects he’s participated in were creating a dashboard tracking the U.S. government’s $76 billion in spending on information technology and creating online and text message updates for applicants to the Citizenship and Immigration Services. He also wants to simplify the bidding process for government contracts.

“We must eat our own proverbial dog food — if it’s our goal to encourage innovation we must embrace it in our own operations,” he said. Chopra said he’d like to build a platform similar to ChallengePost or Innocentive, where the government can put up projects and people can openly bid on solving them.

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