Is the pick of Aneesh Chopra as the nation's CTO a snub for Silicon Valley? After all, Chopra comes from Virginia state government and CIO Vivek Kundra was most recently in D.C. government. You'll recall in the midst of the speculation about who Obama would pick for these posts, I poo-poo'd the idea that the pick would be someone like Bill Joy. And in fact, Obama went not to Silicon Valley but to local government.
That's a good choice for the reasons I outlined at the time.
The CTO job is a political job, a bureaucratic job. The person who succeeds in that job will be someone who can bring an entrepreneurial spirit into a government setting. They will have to familiar with the CTO positions at the whole range of federal agencies; they will have to know their way around Washington to some extent; they will know how to work with large, combative constituencies; and they will expect to be held accountable.
Tim O'Reilly lays out a number of specific reasons that Chopra is the right guy for the job. You can read his full list, but the basic point is that Chopra and Kundra have a track record in making Government 2.0 a reality.
Check out Tim's list of Gov2 items that Chopra has accomplished in Viriginia.
- the first officially-approved open source textbook in the country, the Physics Flexbook.
- integrating iTunes U with Virginia's state education assessment framework;
- the Learning Apps Development Challenge, a competition for the best iPhone and iPod Touch applications for middle-school math teaching;
- a Ning-based social network to connect clinicians working in small health care offices in remote locations;
- a state-funded "venture capital fund" to allow government agencies to try out risky but promising new approaches to delivering their services or improving their productivity;
- a lightweight approval and testing process that allows the government to try out new technologies before making a full, expensive commitment.
Aneesh Chopra is a rock star. He's a brilliant, thoughtful change-maker. He knows technology, he knows government, and he knows how to put the two together to solve real problems. We couldn't do better.