Why Aneesh Chopra is a Great Choice for Federal CTO

The news has now been leaked that President Obama intends to nominate Aneesh Chopra as the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer. The Federal CTO will be an assistant to the President, as well as the Associate Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He will work closely with Vivek Kundra, the recently-named Federal CIO, to develop and implement the President’s ambitious technology agenda.

According to one background document I was given access to, the White House describes the relationship between the CIO and CTO roles as follows:

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 way teachers teach and students learn.

Some in Silicon Valley have hoped for one of their own, a CTO with a deep technology pedigree and ties to the technology industry. For example, the Techcrunch coverage leads with the title Obama Spurns Silicon Valley. This is a narrow view.

I’ve been working for much of the past year to understand what many have been calling Government 2.0, and in that process, Chopra has been one of those who have taught me the most about how we can build a better government with the help of technology. He is an excellent choice as Federal CTO, for many reasons:

  1. Chopra has been focused for the past three years on the specific technology challenges of government. 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, regulations that may no longer be relevant but are still in force, and many
    other unique constraints. In his three year tenure as Secretary for Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Chopra has demonstrated that he has these skills. In fact, last year, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers ranked Virginia #1 in technology management.

  2. The role of the CTO is to provide visionary leadership, to help a company (or in this case, a government) explore the transformative potential of new technology. Try a few of these Virginia technology initiatives on for size:
  3. Chopra demonstrates a deep understanding of the idea that the government is an enabler, not the ultimate solution provider. From the list of initiatives above, you can see that Chopra grasps the power of open source software, Web 2.0, user-participation, and why it’s better to harness the ingenuity of a developer community than to specify complete top-down solutions. In a conversation with me a couple of months ago, he expressed his enthusiasm for the idea of a “digital commonwealth,” a recognition that technology can help us to come together as a society to solve problems and create value through common effort. (See my post yesterday, The Change We Need: DIY on a Civic Scale.)

    This digital commonwealth approach can be seen in Virginia’s approach to rural broadband. The Virginia Information Technology Agency has developed a “broadband toolkit” that fosters cooperation between public agencies and private companies, identifying the location of public sector radio towers that can be used for free by broadband providers in order to reduce their costs, and areas with zoning rules that allow for public sector use of private radio towers.

    The digital commonwealth reflects an understanding of the dynamics that have led to technology successes like Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter, and the iPhone app store: the platform provider creates enabling technology, “rules of the road,” and visibility for participants, and then gets out of the way, leaving room for third parties to create additional value. This is a great model for all future government technology efforts.

  4. Chopra understands that government technologists need to act more like their counterparts in Silicon Valley. As Micah Sifry notes in the TechPresident blog, quoting from a Governing magazine article about the Virginia venture capital experiment:

    “More important, and more unusual for the bureaucrats,” says Governing, “he gives them permission to fail. You can’t innovate, Chopra tells them, without taking a gamble every now and then.” He adds, “We need to fundamentally change the culture of government in which change is measured in budget cycles to one in which change is measured in weeks or months.”

  5. Chopra is a practical innovator. He’s not chasing technology for its own sake. I like this quote from a recent Federal Computer Week story:
    Understanding the process or service is always the most important factor, with technology running second. “Service sector innovation is the most important question,” Chopra said. “I’m not as excited about whether or not it’s emerging technology.”

    In my own conversations with Chopra over the past few months, this focus on “service sector innovation” has seemed particularly fertile. Our economy increasingly consists of service jobs. Improving the effectiveness of those jobs is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. Chopra wants to put technology to work to make us better at health care, at education, at creating a vibrant economy. These are also, incidentally, the goals of the Federal CTO job, as described in one briefing document I reviewed:

    One of the primary responsibilities of the CTO will be to leverage American ingenuity generally and new technologies in particular as engines for job creation and economic growth. The CTO’s priorities will include expanded use of technology to boost broadband access, reduce health care costs, enable novel job-producing industries, remove barriers to technological progress, and create a more transparent and interactive government.

  6. Chopra has a real focus on measurement, and on figuring out what really works. For example, the social network for remote health care workers mentioned above was the result of data showing an unusually high turnover rate for these workers. As I once wrote, in If Google Were a Restaurant,

    Web 2.0 (or “Live Software”, as Microsoft has so insightfully called it) depends on creating information feedback loops. This is the practical plumbing that makes possible Web 2.0 systems that get better the more people use them.

    If we are truly to remake America’s economy with the aid of technology, as the Obama administration has promised, we need to embrace the culture of transparency and feedback. The Federal transparency initiative is a central part of the plan. While there’s a long way to go, the <a href=http://recovery.govrecovery.gov initiative, to report on the progress of Federal stimulus spending, is a critical step in building the electronic nervous system that will help us to understand what we’re spending, where it’s going, and what we’re getting for all that money. Under Chopra’s leadership, Virginia has been in the forefront of driving stimulus transparency down to the state level. stimulus.virginia.gov was one of the first state-level stimulus sites, and has served as a model for other states.

  7. Chopra has specific expertise in Health Care IT. This is one of the most critical areas where we need to see technology innovation in the coming years. Unless we can get Moore’s Law working in health care, it will eventually bankrupt our already-tottering economy. $19 billion has been allocated to Health Care IT in the stimulus package. We need someone who can help us spend it wisely!

  8. Chopra is incredibly charismatic. This is essential in a role that depends on persuasion rather than outright authority. As Sean Garrett said in an excellent post on the 463 blog:

    I highly recommend watching a good portion of the video below. It’s from this year’s Congressional Internet Caucus conference in September.

    Chopra may not be a Valley guy, but Silicon Valley is going to like him a lot. He’s energetic, insightful and can speak the language (again, watch the video). He’s no bureaucrat.

    And, just because you didn’t previously work for a chip company or an Internet start-up doesn’t mean that you “are not a tech guy” as I just read another blog. Chopra spent a bulk of his career seeing technology in action (for better or worse) in his work in the health care industry and knew that it could and should do better to bring change to the massive sector.

    I couldn’t agree more. 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.

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  • http://azfoo.net Gerald Thurman

    Thank You for helping us learn about the new CTO of the United States. I wanted Obama to pick Vint Cerf or Dennis Ritchie for CTO, but it appears Aneesh Chopra may indeed be a technological “rock star.”

    I’m going to consider Chopra’s choice for CTO as good news for the FLOSS movement and I hope you’re right when you said: “We couldn’t do better.”

  • http://recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot.com Ray Beckerman

    As someone who wrote on Slashdot that Mr. Chopra is a “non-tech guy”, I am glad that you have given us some perspective, and glad that Slashdot added a link to your article, which became available only after mine had been submitted.

    It’s not important, but what I meant by “non-tech guy” was not that he had not been employed in Silicon Valley or by an internet startup, but that he was not himself a technologist.

  • Schatboy

    Alpha-geeks? Paaaaalease. Hubris maybe…

  • http://463.blogs.com Sean Garrett

    Thanks for the link, Tim. But, one minor self-edit on your pull quote from my blog. The Congressional Internet Caucus conference was in January of this year (not September).

    And, more importantly, well done on such an excellent compilations of reasons that we should be excited to have Aneesh on board in in the White House.

  • Barbie

    Sounds like a moneybags politician to me.

    He’s not a bureaucrat, you say, yet he has a very ominous list of bureaucrat creds: Gov Tech magazine, National Association of State Chief Information Officers, Federal Computer Week, promoter of Itunes U., advocate of gov vc funding.

    Do non-bureaucrats really get the juicy appointments? Hmm.

    Sounds like Chopra sat in on some committee meetings, shook some hands, made some donations, and made sure not to molest any children.

    What’s his position on copyright btw? One can only wonder.

    Oh, but then there’s the charisma thing. Maybe, in fact, there’s ONLY the charisma thing.

    Nice — and quick — article though. Can of makes you wonder if there isn’t some nice and quick gov-approved source for those nice — and quick — talking points.

  • A. Shore

    I think both he and Obama are taking the easy stuff.

    The real problem, IMO, are the huge applications that crank out payroll checks, process (or lose) personnel actions, …. all the unglamorous applications that are so difficult to upgrade and take so long to revise. Like the FBI’s case system that’s as many years behind schedule as is the you-name-it defense system.

    Every Department has its own payroll, purchasing, personnel system, even though they all follow the same fundamental rules and regulations. THAT’S infrastructure, IMO, not broadband, not IPV6, not social networks.

  • Chuck Willour

    While Aneesh Chopra appears to have some relevant experience, I find it offensive that Obama has selected a pure technocrat with little experience in large-scale secure systems (bio: http://www.technology.virginia.gov/OfficeInfo/chopraBio.cfm) to promote to the Federal CTO position. I understand that the CTO position is viewed as more of a visionary and sales position than a position of true technical skill, but Obama’s decision merely reflects a preference for skills like political manipulation and the ability to pitch a “big picture” (like an architect) over the input of those who actually understand the implementation details and security implications of various technologies (i.e. engineers.) For my money (and it is OUR money he will be spending) I would rather work with an engineer than a architect when issues such a security should be the most important factor. (After all, we are talking about the development and implementation of a national health care records interchange system.)

  • Marcia McLean

    Ho hum, another one of the good old boys spouting the usual good old boy lingo. I tried listening to the video to judge the “charisma” thing myself, had to turn it off after two minutes lest I throw my poor laptop off the roof in sheer frustration.

    Also, I don’t understand how using taxpayer dollars to support an initiative that requires investment by school districts? parents? in mega expensive iPhones and iPod Touch devices is progressive. Unless, of course, you’re an Apple shareholder.

  • noodles

    After watching this I’m a bit concerned about how laxidasial he is concerning personal privacy as it relates to digital personal identifying information.
    It seems he doesn’t really understand nor care about the criticism’s privacy advocates are complaining about with these new programs. Nor does he seem averse to bringing in large private companies to mine his citizen’s data if it saves the state government for having to pay for it. So he’s basically trading his citizens privacy in order to avoid paying for his experimental programs.

  • nimbus

    Marcia, does $199 = “mega expensive”?

    Please. I think you should calm down a bit, honey.

  • Reynolds-Anthony Harris

    Our President has done it again! An extremely wise and refreshing choice here. The complexities of government are “different” and require experience in the field. The wise choice in this case, indicates that immediate progress can be made with out the “shock and awe” of understanding government and its differential realities. Great start!

  • noodles

    Chuck perfect word actually: technocrat.
    Thats what he is, whether that’s the perfect fit for this presidential CTO role will remain to be seen.

  • raivo pommer-www.google.ee

    raivo pommer-www.google.ee
    raimo1@hot.ee

    London bankkrieg

    Erst wurde der Bonus gestrichen, dann die Stelle des Ehemanns. Der Wert des Aktienvermögens ist geschrumpft und der Wert des Hauses in London um 20 Prozent gefallen. Was die Ferienvilla im Süden noch wert ist, will Laura lieber nicht wissen. „Sparen ist angesagt. Es müssen so viele Leute haushalten, dass Sparen jetzt cool ist“, meint Laura trocken, um dem Finanzdesaster der Familie etwas Positives abzugewinnen. Sie übt neue Bescheidenheit und hat die Einladungen für ihre Geburtstagsparty auf dem Computer selbst getippt.

    Nicht jeder kann oder will sich auf die „neue Armut“ in der Londoner City so einstellen wie Laura. „Hätte ich früher gewusst, wie dramatisch schnell sich die Welt ändern kann, hätte ich das Geld nie so leichtfertig ausgegeben“, sagt Nancy mit Reue. Ihre Ehe wurde auf dem Höhepunkt der Hausse vor der Finanzkrise geschieden. Ihr wurden die Hälfte des Vermögens, Ehegattenunterhalt und Zahlungen für die Kinder zugesprochen. Doch ihr Ex-Mann steht angesichts der Finanzkrise vor einem Scherbenhaufen mit Jobverlust und Vermögenseinbußen. Er kann und will den vereinbarten Unterhalt seiner ehemaligen Frau nicht mehr zahlen.

  • http://markdrapeau.com Mark Drapeau

    I was lucky enough to be at a dinner party not so long ago, sitting across from Aneesh Chopra. People can dissect his resume ad nauseum, and debate whether the federal CTO should be a “visionary” or a “practitioner” but I can tell you the following. Chopra is a person who is engaging and smart, who understands the role of government and the things people and businesses need, and can facilitate novel mechanisms for making new and valuable connections between technology and government.

  • edgar

    You should probably remove apple’s app store from being an example of a company that provides a platform and then gets out of the way. Apple has a reputation for refusing to allow useful applications on their app store without any good reason.

  • http://twitter.com/protoiyer Suresh R Iyer

    I am an Indian (living in India) and the first point that strikes me after reading Tim’s post and listening in on Aneesh’s speech is this: India is unlucky that such a talent is helping shape US’s future rather than India’s. But that is not the main point of this comment.

    The point is, I would rather have someone as driven, knowledgeable, tech savvy, and with a proven track record as Aneesh as my nation’s CTO rather than having a politician or a techie. As Tim says, it does appear as if Aneesh’s knowledge is a good mix of technical stuff and how government works. After all, all those things he articulated as happening in Virginia are amazing as concepts-worth-following anywhere in the world. Just my two cents…

  • http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/mrn24/?PageTemplateID=137 Michael R. Nelson

    I was fortunate enough to work in the White House Office of Science Technology Policy during the Clinton Administration where I worked closely with Vice President Gore. I’ve known the last five Associate Directors for Technology at OSTP, and I know what skills are needed for the job. Aneesh Chopra has EXACTLY the right skills. And he’s got a great new title, CTO, which means that he’ll have more clout, that more will be expected of him and that he’ll receive more scrutiny than his predecessors. I’m glad Obama made such an excellent choice.

    Anyone who’s worked on technology policy in Washington knows that accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies requires overcoming a lot of cultural, legal, and bureaucratic barriers. Knowing how to solve differential equations is helpful but so is having experience making government organizations work.

    We are very lucky that Obama was able to recruit so many talented people to his technology team.

  • http://www.socialmode.com Russ

    Chopra is a great choice. It’s about the DO. It’s about trying things and constantly improving. And you don’t need to know logic circuit design to make great technology.

    Name the last three federal CTOs… exactly. If we actually think technology matters, we better have a visionary and someone people know.

    Nice post above. Very helpful.

  • http://www.bricklin.com Dan Bricklin

    Watching that video of Aneesh speaking you can see that he is someone who we can engage on major issues. He gets the new stuff and has lived with the problems of the old. He seems very practical. This looks to me pretty good. Mitch Kapor tweeted that he knows Aneesh and completely agrees with Tim that he’s a great choice (http://twitter.com/mkapor/status/1551197759) and I trust Mitch to know these issues well.

  • http://www.finaldaysforum.com Judy Howard Ellis

    Tim, this is a great post. So was the one yesterday! (I just re-tweeted about that one.). Your reasons for supporting Chopra are thoughtful. I especially like the quote you cited from TechPresident and Governing magazine: “You can’t innovate,” Chopra tells them, “without taking a gamble every now and then.”
    Thanks for helping us look forward.
    Judy Howard Ellis

  • Anonymous

    I started watching the video.

    At around 7 minutes, he explains Virginia could not obtain $300 million for implementing a consolidated database/IT infrastructure.

    Listen to what comes next: they were approached by (I assume he mean opened bidding for a contract) Northrop-Grumman who offered to put up the entire capital cost ($300M), and build the entire infrastructure. In exchange, NG was given the allocated operating cost for the IT budget (or for the new infrastructure only.. not clear) which $286M for the next 10 years. So, NG puts up $300M (which was the state’s cost, not NG’s cost, it’s likely less for NG) for return of $2.86 billion!

    Now, I realize you have to devalue the 2.86B for future inflation; and there are lots of details. Such as, will NG cover upgrade costs, etc.?

    However, at a time when many other large governments including countries, states, provinces and cities (China, India, Brazil, Spain, Norway, Munich, Largo, etc., etc.) have begun moving to OSS solutions for cost-of-ownership, openness, flexibility, etc., Chopra decides the hand the contract to the largest (second largest?) defense contractor??

    Sounds like politics as usual to me.

    To be fair, he talks the talk, and the rest of the his video where he discusses initiatives with Google (questionable, but fair enough), open content for physics and education, sounds promising.

    But his implementation isn’t as “open” as I think he would like to believe. Or at least, you have to ask if the money has been spent in a way that furthers “openness”.

    After all, who’s systems and databases do you think Northrop Grumman will use?

  • http://www.redbrazil.com sean oreilly

    From what I saw on the video, Chopra is a terrific communicator. Radar has brought real news–stuff that matters–to our collective attention. Half the battle in finding any solution is, obviously, to clearly identify the parameters of the problem and that is what Aneesh seems to do very well.

    Aneesh has his finger on the pulse of one of the main problems facing good and effective governance today: disparate information platforms and systems that don’t talk to one another. Those systems get mirrored by bureaucrats who don’t communicate amongst themselves either for more effective use of resources–monetary and otherwise. For example, Chopra calls for software that can interface with old COBOL systems for data extraction. Some government agencies are so bound up with ancient software packages that change has become nearly impossible. (The IRS is a classic example of this kind of inability to change even when IT change would clearly benefit the agency’s ability to collect revenue) They don’t have the tools for change even if they wanted them.

    What Aneesh is, perhaps, a bit naive about is how willing many bureaucrats may be to cooperate in their own demise. There are a lot of jobs that will be sacked when effective information systems remove dead wood–and don’t think some of those folks and politician patrons and panderers don’t know that. Self-interest is a powerful force that cuts both ways.

    The key is to incentivize the public sector to adopt new technologies that will improve the common good. What is the common good? Now that is the million dollar question. If you ask an economist, he or she may give you a very different answer than an environmentalist or even a run-of-the-mill politician. Without definitions of what constitutes good growth or good social policy, we can expect to see more of the same left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing kind of government. There is a kind of ridiculous egalitarian pretense among many circles that there is no one size fits all concept of the public good possible and that what is beneficial can only result from a kind of washing machine process of multiple interests making compromises. There isn’t enough good will out there for this work anymore. Everybody’s interest is paramount and the concept of the common good has been hijacked by those who have little or no concept of what the public good might consist of. They know what they want for their own ideological constituencies and little else.

    There are many individuals in government and business who have absolutely no interest in transparency and will likely sabotage at every juncture and opportunity any attempts to engage transparent systems. The devolved have always preferred to work under the cover of darkness.

  • http://johnfmoore.wordpress.com John MOore

    The choice of Federal CTO was not going to please everyone so it is not surprising to see varying opinions in the comments of this section.

    Tim says it mostly right when he says “We couldn’t do better”. I would modify it only slightly to say “We couldn’t do better at this point in time”.

    - Chopra, as an insider with some clear vision will be able to engage and excite those internal to the government and many of the outsiders. He will have work to do, building bridges, but as someone familiar with the political arena is is well suited. Someone from the private sector would struggle in this regard and likely lessen the belief that this role is needed.

    - Chopra appears to be a capable partner for the CIO. His vision and his actions around security are not as critical as people are making it out to be. The CIO is in charge for driving these policies, not the CTO. Furthermore, the CIO will be the one, working jointly with Chopra, to streamline, I hope, processes like payroll, IT governance, etc..

    - I am pleased that Chopra is not someone who appears to not fall in love with shiny new technologies. He is someone who has demonstrated, an ability to recognize a problem, and solve it with technology (not the other way around).

    However, it will be important for him to become a unifying force between government and private enterprise. I hope to see him embrace the private sector by partnering in setting the national technology strategy. Furthermore, government and corporate technologist will need to come together to deliver on this vision.

    If this partnering is done correctly it will also act to give CTOs from outside the traditional government career path deeper insights into what it will take to be successful as the Federal CTO. Who knows, one day Silicon Valley may get their wish, just not today.

    This role is critical for the future of our country, not just for the vision of where we will go technologically. Good luck in the new role.

    John Moore
    http://johnfmoore.wordpress.com
    http://twitter.com

  • noodles

    Sean you certainly bring some good points to your argument but your ending smacks of a conspiratorial tone. The truth is that whoever becomes the next CTO would have to face this forced migration problem and I think old COBOL/ VMS maintainers are smart enough to realize where the markets headed and been heading for years.

  • http://ctovision.com Bob Gourley

    Tim,

    As a former CTO at a DoD agency and a current CTO at a small consultancy I have to totally agree with you. I’m also a current blogger and I try to write with CTOs in mind, but as I tried creating a post today I could not think of anything significant to say that you did not already point out. I especially liked the way you pointed out Chopra’s accomplishments. The real indicator of a great CTO is their ability to perform and he sure did that for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    For Aneesh: Good luck! We are all counting on you. And as for me, I really appreciate you continuing to serve the public. It can be a really hard life full of sacrifice and I’m very glad patriots like you are so willing to serve.

    And Tim I appreciate you continuing to implore us all to work on things that matter. Sounds like Aneesh listened to you.

    Cheers,
    Bob

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    Barbie -

    I wasn’t up till 1:30 am writing this from government talking points. The stories quoting from the government press release were up by 9…

    I wrote this based on my own conversations with Aneesh, and research I’ve been doing in preparation for our Government 2.0 Summit in September.

    The government briefing papers I referenced were about the role of the CTO, and the gist of that is both quoted and explicitly attributed.

    Nimbus -

    I don’t think you understand the role of a senior technology executive. Even folks with a deep technology background in industry are a LONG way from the technical details. Like any executive, they rely on staff who have much deeper knowledge than they do. I believe Chopra is technical enough to understand the issues and make good decisions.

    I’ll also point out the advantages of not being *too close* to the technology. It often allows you to see patterns that others miss, precisely because they are too close to some particular technology.

    Look at my own career. My original training was in Greek and Latin classics. I became a contract technical writer, and built technical skills on the job. But most of those skills were not what you’d call “hardcore” tech – system and network administration, text processing. I wrote sed & awk programs, troff macro packages, and even once a general ledger program for my fledgling business, but I was not much of a programmer.

    Yet I managed to lead a company that:

    * published the first and most important books on many key technical topics
    * created the first web portal and the first advertising-based web site (GNN, in 1993)
    * organized the meeting where the term “open source” was agreed on by a collection of free software leaders, many of whom had never met before I thought to bring them together
    * catalyzed key thinking about the significance of the web as platform (“web 2.0″)
    * played a key role in teaching many of the hardcore technical people you wish were given this job.

    If you want to use the word “technocrat”, it probably fits me as well. Yet I’ve managed to have a pretty big influence in this industry.

    I also say, I’ve met Aneesh, and been impressed. Folks like Eric Schmidt, Craig Barrett, Craig Mundie, all of whom have pretty good tech credentials, as well as other “technocrats” like John Doerr and Vinod Khosla are all pretty impressed with him too.

    It’s easy to make snarky comments. Harder to make important stuff happen.

    I’d be surprised if even the most critical commenters here weren’t impressed if you actually had a conversation with Aneesh.

    Anonymous -

    I think you misunderstand. $286 million for the next ten years doesn’t mean $2.86 billion. It means $28.6 million a year, for $286 million over ten years.

    In short, my reading of that discussion is that Chopra got NG to pay up front, and take their money over ten years.

    Edgar -

    I hear you about the lack of openness of Apple’s platform. But that doesn’t stop it from being a super-effective platform, and one in which a huge amount of the value is created by third parties, not by Apple. If the government could build a platform that successful at catalyzing the technical community to add value for citizens while making money for the developers, it would be great, even if the platform weren’t completely open.

  • http://friendfeed.com/hardaway Francine Hardaway

    I’m actually GLAD the CTO doesn’t come from Silicon Valley, because it’s important for him to come with a perspective on how technology can be used by humans, not just invented and made better by early adopters. And it’s not as if there is no technology in Virginia; didn’t AOL start there?

    And health care is my private Idaho. I think there is so much to be done in that area, and I worry that the person doing it won’t understand the crappy apps that are being sold to doctors and the way hospital systems can’t talk to each other. Integration in health care will be critical. Or even better (and more controversial), putting the info in some cloud.

    I’m listening to him talk about databases that don’t talk to each other. He’s saying all the right things.

  • http://adamsenterprises.wordpress.com/2009/04/15/it-has-all-been-done-b4/ Cliff Adams

    This established position and appointment may answer the question I had a few days ago (http://adamsenterprises.wordpress.com/2009/04/15/it-has-all-been-done-b4/) as to how a new solid economy could be re-established within the IT world. I’m not hearing or reading about any great ideas that really affect the human condition. Facebook, iPhone, iPod, iTunes, oh my.. In a recent LinkedIn question about whether people are working on something new or not, the few answers I got offered very little encouragement. I certainly hope we’ll see a little more “R” in our collective, national, “R&D” effort. All I’ve heard for the last 4 years is “Get it done” with little attention to figuring out “how” and sometimes without a good “why.”

    Cliff Adams
    http://adamsenterprises.wordpress.com
    http://twitter.com/cadamsTW

  • Alz

    Sorry Tim, what can this guy do? Obama and Congress are spending TRILLIONS dollars of OUR money that we don’t have and much of it is on poltical projects.

    These bills were never read and presented, but were forced through. Many congressman were appalled that the lobbyists had the bills before they did.

    This guy is going to be like a drop of water in the ocean.

    We’ll see some nice web 2.0 websites but they really won’t matter with such a huge bureaucracy filled with cronies and lobbyists (not to mention people who don’t pay taxes).

    This guy could be best CTO in the world and he won’t make much of a dent in the politcal doings of Big Government.

  • Alz

    Sean O’Reilly, you said “The key is to incentivize the public sector to adopt new technologies that will improve the common good.”

    Big Government exists to maintain itself. The “common good” isn’t near the top of their list of things to consider because they are first and foremost always worreid about themselves.

    This isn’t true everywhere, but it’s true in many parts of government.

    On top of this, government rarely measures what they do since most programs are failures.

    Just look how Obama and Congress have been spending over the past few months. No one really knows where the monies are going or who is going to pay our debtors off.

    If a normal organization was so irresponsible with money, the main charcaters would be fired.

    But we are used to government being inefficient; we are used to the corruption; and we are used to the failures.

    So don’t expect this guy to be able to do much.

    What we need is smaller government and I don’t see anyone who can really push this.

  • PS

    Although he may be a nice guy, he’s clearly not qualified; thereby seemingly just another politically correct empty suite being given authority over something one knows technically very little about; basically akin to naming someone without any medical qualifications beyond possibly managing a hospital’s budget, to be the Surgeon General. (Not unlike most of the new administration’s staff, being largely either inept, crooked, or a little of both.)

  • debug

    This is a slap to unemployed Engineers and Programmers that have been replaced by cheap foreign labor under the guest worker visas like H1b and L1 (and they are mostly Indian) and also those that lost their jobs that got outsourced to India.
    Obama does not care about the unemployed Americans. Hopefully our next President after him will eventually hire Americans and help Americans first.

  • Anonymous

    Tim: $2 billion over 10 years, not $28.6 million for each of 10 years

    Northrop Grumman Reports Third Quarter 2006 Results

    Northrop Grumman and the commonwealth of Virginia finalized their IT infrastructure partnership contract. The 10-year contract is valued at approximately $2 billion and includes cost reimbursable, fixed-price and fixed-unit pricing contractual provisions.

    http://investor.northropgrumman.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=112386&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=920211&highlight=

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    Anonymous, I stand corrected. However, the fact that the contract is $2 Billion over ten years doesn’t mean that it’s a bad contract for Virginia. I obviously don’t know the details of this arrangement — and frankly, neither do you — so carrying on a debate about it here doesn’t seem too productive. I will see if I can learn more about the particulars. But I would guess that in the range of state contracts, this is probably not out of line.

    I do know that in one conversation I had with Aneesh, he was lamenting the fact that states were not able to share investments that they make in infrastructure with each other. (His thoughts echoed an idea that I’d discussed back in 2000, that of a “gated source community.” After all, each state performs many of the same functions, yet they each pay systems integrators hundreds of millions of dollars a year to build what are essentially the same systems.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see some innovative approaches to reducing the cost of state IT infrastructure as a result of his new role.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    Strong support from tech heavyweights like Eric Schmidt, John Doerr, and Mitch Kapor, quoted in this WSJ piece: Tech Industry Cheers as Obama Taps Aneesh Chopra for CTO.

  • Jeffrey A. Williams

    Isn’t Virgina the commonwealth whos administration
    department declaired Slasdot associated with
    terrorism?

    Aneesh, whom I do not know, my be a good choice,
    and may not. We really won’t know. But as a CTO
    a technical person would have been a far better
    choice IMO. Political appointments to special
    positions haven’t historically proven to be
    very good choices for technically inclined or
    involved responsibilities. They just don’t
    have the experiance or background often times.
    The up side is that non-technical people in
    technical positions at a high level are not
    tainted or biased usually, but not always.

  • http://salimismail.com Salim Ismail

    This is a great appointment. Being a Silicon Valley techie is not the key criteria – it’s the ability to navigate government and get ideas implemented against a backdrop of incompatible data structures and out-of-date policies. That’s the much more important factor.

    And totally agree with Francine’s comment re: healthcare.

  • newssweb

    Damn,

    this guy is a sociotechnological anthropologist, not just a politician and no more a techie. and I believe he will shape the technology landscape pretty much. Luckily it was not a tech guy been appointed otherwise we would see only bits and bytes and a technology determinist world. Thanks Obama

  • Falafulu Fisi

    A Shore said…
    Like the FBI’s case system that’s as many years behind schedule as is the you-name-it defense system.

    Some of the government IT systems had been developed at Los Alamos, such as the FBI fingerprinting retrieval system. It is better not to re-invent the wheel, ie, the government should not be in the business of re-inventing things that are already available commercially.

  • Falafulu Fisi

    Jeffrey Williams said…
    But as a CTO a technical person would have been a far better choice IMO.

    I agree here. One obvious person that fits that bill is Bill Joy (former Sun Microsystems Chief Scientist). Why? He is a truly tech guy, ie, PhD (Computer Science – Information Architecture). Another reason, is that he is an entrepreneur, so he knows business really well.

    Bill Joy can understand what computer scientists at Los Alamos or any other government agencies (Sandia Corporations, etc,…) are researching/working on. A guy at the top of the IT chain must understand everything underneath him, especially the technicality of projects that he oversees, such as the cutting-edge stuff that researchers at Los Alamos are doing or the scientific computation researches that scientists at Sandia are doing, etc,… The barriers to these technical difficulties, must only be understood by a person who has done (original research) that him/herself. Such person will be very effective in managing IT development. That person must be Bill Joy.

  • Falafulu Fisi

    The reason Bill Joy is a good choice, is because of his background on IT is very deep. His depth of knowledge in that field is unmatchable.

    Obama, has picked Steve Chu as the Energy Secretary, which is appropriate given Steve’s background (Physics Nobel Laureate). Obama could have picked William Phillips from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) instead. William Phillips shared the 1997 Physics Nobel Prize, with Steve Chu and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji for their work in laser-cooling technology. I’ve only met Prof. William Phillips once at his free public lecture here at University of Auckland, New Zealand in 2004. I managed to talk to him briefly at the end of his lecture. The point is, to be the head of a department you need to know your field really well from the left to the right end of the spectrum. So, either Steve Chu or William Phillips would be a perfect candidate for Secretary of Energy, but Obama has chosen Steven Chu. Likewise, the CTO must be someone of the calibre of Steve Chu (in his field) and that person with the same calibre is Bill Joy as I have stated in my previous message post.

  • Dave Willis

    I had the privilege of working with Aneesh at The Advisory Board Company in the late 1990s. He has amazing talent, and it is exciting to see someone of his capability and passion acceding to such an important role.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    Falafulu Fisi -

    Much as I like and admire Bill Joy, he would have been a terrible choice for Federal CTO. To be effective, the CTO needs to be able to translate from the tech world into the politics and policy world. As I’ve been spending more time in DC, I realize how much I’m speaking a different language. Folks in tech forget how much of a subculture we are. Conversations that we take as normal are literally unintelligible to people not of our subculture.

    Washington is the same. They have their own way of framing and discussing issues, their own deep knowledge that is encapsulated in shorthand that has been used so often that it forms a kind of subculture dialect.

    Now imagine two subcultures, each with its own dialect, trying to converse. Sometimes even the same word means different things to them.

    The point of the role isn’t just to give great tech advice, to but frame it in a way that the people with the power to make policy understand and act on it.

    Someone like John Hennessy with deep administrative experience as President of Stanford as well as deep tech chops might have made sense.

    I’m quite confident that Aneesh is technical enough and sharp enough to have a meaningful conversation with a Bill Joy, and take from it what he needs to carry to the right folks in Washington.

  • Tom Redding

    I find it funny that people like Barbie and Chuck who clearly do not have the slightest ideas about the workings of government are able to make such outlandish comments so freely. I watched the whole video posted and was able to understand over 90% of Chopra’s explanations, and im just your normal Joe.

    Before you go randomly ranting on about how Chopra is a bad choice, do some more research on his credentials and his accomplishments or at least obtain a GED.

  • UnemployedITAmerican

    My first job I lost to an Indian under H1b, then got a job, then lost it when it got outsourced to India. Indians have been telling us that Americans are lazy and not good at math/sciences.
    It looks like Obama believe they are better for us. Even if the new CIO is American, Obama should feel some sensitivity to unemployed Americans in Engineering and Information Technology. I hope he remembers that the American middle class voted for him and that he has started to break all his promises that he made during his campaign. He is not the change we voted for.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    UnemployedITAmerican -

    You discredit yourself with your racism. Aneesh Chopra is as much an American as you are, or I am. It’s within the memory of my parents that people made the same kinds of comments about Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans.

    I don’t deny that outsourcing of jobs is a sore point for many people. But don’t forget who was doing that outsourcing: rich white guys, who are fattening their own paychecks by delivering what appeared to be superior results to middle-class American investors, while really eating away at the heart of our economy.

  • Mark Meehan

    I got a lot of stuff out of this article. The technologies, what initiatives the government will go with if a guys like Oreilly and Chopra have a hand in it. There is value in knowing this, and prepared to utilize these technologies to compete in a centric government of the future.

    But I move beyond that for a moment.

    These guys have the money and the brains to solve the worlds ills and they always gravitate back to Government as the answer. What I mean by this is, they both have great ideas and Chopra is apparently incredibly motivated. The problem I have is their argument; that government is the answer and these technologies will help government perform better. Remove government from the picture and find a free market solution to the problems. Am I so blind that I only see government and bureaucracy as costly and problems toward advancement. These guys seem so stupid to me to ignore the facts that these technologies were made possible, NOT by government, but by free market thinkers and innovators working in their garages.

    In my world, the solution to the problem is less government and if there is a need or desire, innovative people will find an answer that will cost less and be done in a much shorter period of time. A solution that will evolve towards a direction that will truly solve the problems at hand rather than gravitating towards more government, politics and people without knowledge of the problems standing in the way of the solution.

  • Bhavdeep Chhabra

    Aneesh Chopra is a fantastic choice for the country’s CTO. The CTO’s role should be about identifying disruptive technologies and creating the political and social environment for their application to create a better future. It should NOT be about better utilizing IT to improve the efficiency of government. To view Technology primarily as “Information Technology” would be extremely short-sighted – its really any technical innovation that can improve mankind – and for that you need exactly what Aneesh Chopra brings to the table – a Visionary, an Assimilator and a person who knows how to build alliances and relationships to get the agenda moving forward. IMO, a technician (pseduospeak = Silicon Valley guy)would be absolutely the wrong kind of guy for this type of job.

    His ground breaking initiatives in Virginia coupled with his Advisory Board health care policy work and experience with using technology to measure and significantly improve hospital performance is an example of somebody who is not afraid to take a risk when he sees a good idea.

    I’m excited about what lies ahead…

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    Mark Meehan -

    I don’t think government is the answer, and I don’t think either Barack Obama or Aneesh Chopra do either. In fact, what I like most about Aneesh is the way he’s trying to think about how to catalyze more private sector innovation by HOW the government provides its services.

    Aneesh is very aware of the kind of platform dynamics that have led to virtuous circles of innovation in Silicon Valley, in which someone provides a framework or starting point against which others innovate. (See my reference above to Google Maps, Twitter, Facebook, and the iPhone.)

    He and others (like Vivek Kundra, the Federal CIO) are thinking a lot about what kinds of things the government can do – e.g. in the area of open data – to make it possible for citizens and outside companies to do more for themselves. Startups like everyblock are showing us how much value is in government data.

    Look, for example, in the video at about 32 minutes in, where he’s talking about how Virginia got Rolls Royce to site an advanced jet engine R&D lab in Virginia, not by offering tax incentives, but by working with Virginia state universities to create an engineering center that could partner with Rolls Royce on R&D. This is a lot of what I do at O’Reilly – help connect people who ought to be working together. It’s not traditional government spending.

    It doesn’t sound like you’ve read the other article I wrote recently (and referenced in the piece above), entitled The Change We Need: DIY at a Civic Scale. That says a lot about how I feel about government, and I don’t think that there’s anything there that Aneesh Chopra would object to either.

    There’s no question that government has gotten too large, and that there’s a lot of waste. But I will also note that government spending has grown fastest under the administrations of those who claim to hate it, and has slowed or shrunk under administrations (like the present one) that want to make it work more effectively. (This, of course, is leaving aside the stimulus, which was required to restart our economy after the devastation caused by private greed in the absence of government regulation of mortgage lending. By the way, if you haven’t ever listened to NPR’s excellent piece, The Giant Pool of Money, I can’t recommend it highly enough.)

    In short, even if you think that there ought to be less government, you ought to be supportive of folks like Aneesh Chopra, who might actually make it more effective.

    (Take a quick look at the commercial sector. When companies get big, bloated, and inefficient, they normally are taken out by competitors, and eventually go out of business. A lucky few are able to streamline and reinvent themselves. Ask yourself if you really want our government to fail–because that, not some magical-thinking version of smaller government by starvation, is what will happen if we, collectively, don’t figure out how to make it more responsive, effective, and accountable. These are the goals that the Obama administration has set.

    If you like less government, help the guys who are trying to make it so. Don’t stand on the sidelines pretending that if only we lived in some alternate fantasy world where there was less government, things would be better. Think hard about how we get there from here. Most of the libertarian and Republican pundits aren’t thinking about that. They just want to wave a magic wand.

    Government 2.0 means figuring out what things the government can do to make the rest of us more effective. Only then can it get out of the way.

  • Chuck Brownstein

    Brilliant choice!

    Finding such a competent forward looking tech savvy leader with a record of success in the trenches in government is really tough.

    Convincing them to take on an even harder job at a fraction of what they could command in the private sector is far harder. That is par for this administration.

    Chopra will need the backing of the dozens of “little governments” that are federal agencies. He has the skills to get that but will as strong White House and OMB support as he has had in at the state level Virginia .

  • Fed-up

    This is absolutely retarded! Why does the government need to be enlarged AGAIN?!?! This position and the CPO are not needed! The government is here to uphold and enforce the law, to keep checks and balances. Not to run big business and control the advancement of technology. Obama is NOT good for this country and neither is the debt he is creating.

  • NavyWings

    Forgot that he’s an excellent donor to the DNC as well: $22,450. Hmmm. I’m SURE he got the job based solely on his ability.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    NavyWings -

    I would imagine that most of the people who are candidates for virtually every appointed job in any administration is a donor to that party. That’s true whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican.

    It’s sad that our country has become so partisan, but that die was cast back in the time of the Founding Fathers, when there was a huge fight over whether or not we would have parties (or factions as they called them at the time) at all.

    Think about it for a minute: roughly 50% of the people in this country were in support of one candidate or another. So right there you’re at the odds that half the candidates will be donors to your party. Now take into consideration that you want to hire people who understand and are supportive of your agenda: do you choose guys who were active supporters of the other candidate, or folks who worked on your team?

    Sure, Aneesh is a democrat and an Obama supporter. I’m simply shocked by that revelation!

    Obama’s done a better job than Bush (for whom party loyalty was everything) of crossing party lines. He even kept a couple of major Bush appointments on the job.

    Would I like to see more post-partisanship? Absolutely. But that’s not what you’re displaying with this comment.

    Aneesh is profoundly qualified. We don’t need to know more than that.

  • trying to help

    your link to:
    stimulus.gov
    has a malformed ‘a’ tag.

    but it doesnt make a difference since the site seems to no longer exist

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    trying to help -

    That’s because it’s recovery.gov, not stimulus.gov. Thanks. I fixed both the name and the link.

  • ralph

    If we only paid a little more attention to the ‘I’ and somewhat less attention to the ‘T’ and got our Boards behind us……

  • http://www.pwc.com/techforecast Alan Morrison

    After listening to this video (thanks for pointing us to it) I came to several conclusions about the state of VA’s policies under Chopra:

    1) The “rip, mix and burn” philosophy’s open source, but the solution providers mentioned elsewhere are big iron IT; there’s a disconnect here. I had the impression that the state may be unthinkingly trading one generation of dated technology and vendor lock-in for another.
    2) Healthcare and government have both been laggards in IT innovation, but their focus on the data silo problem could make them leaders. But only if they’re true contrarians deeply resistant to traditional IT ways.
    3) Chopra was in the VA government for three years. What happens to VA now that he’s elsewhere? If he averages that long in the Obama Administration, he’ll have started some interesting initiatives. Will the Federal government then lose sight of what his original goals were? Back in the 1990s, Reinventing Government had good intentions, and diagnosed many problems correctly. Two years after it was announced, no one took it seriously.

  • http://drcoddwasright.blogspot.com/ Robert Young

    @Alan Morrison:
    >> 2) Healthcare and government have both been laggards in IT innovation, but their focus on the data silo problem could make them leaders. But only if they’re true contrarians deeply resistant to traditional IT ways.

    The greatest laggards, and I’ve done software in healthcare and government too, is financial services; yes, the selfsame knuckleheads that caused the mess. They haven’t met a 1970’s COBOL program, or one translated to java, they didn’t just love. No bunch is more hidebound.

  • americanit

    Tim O’Reilly
    I hope someday your job is outsourced to India. Now this CTO will send all the jobs to India so what is good about that? You collaborator.

  • http://www.itgrunt.com Kevin Flanagan

    It’s a little bit too late to sing Kumbaya, now that 3-4 million American I.T. workers have been displaced by the likes of Chopra and his cronies operating the bodyshops, flooding government I.T. jobs with H-1Bs and L-1s, and exploiting indentured servants from India – the so-called “guest workers” that for some reason refuse to leave.

    Articles like this make me want to vomit. What, everybody in I.T. has to be Hindu or of Indian decent? Americans invented the software industry, but suddenly we’re an inferior race that needs to be purged out of I.T.?

    WTF?

  • Justin

    I guess, the prseidency can start being outsourced to India….. Now we have the technology…

    I am glad to be paying TAXES to this government.

  • Mike Sanders

    I serve on a volunteer board for healthcare IT (HIMSS), and have worked with Aneesh Chopra over the past 3 years – promoting advances in healthcare IT improvements.

    My observations:
    1) He’s very anti-bureaucracy… I’ve seen him do amazing things getting govt, tech vendors, and health providers together.

    2) He challenges EVERYONE to think outside the box… he refuses to fund programs that aren’t next generation solutions.

    3) He never took a political positions on issues. I never knew if he was an R or D…

    4) He created an environment where technology vendors could work with private sector and govt departments in creative ways… he didn’t just spend money on technology.

    I expect great things to come out of his office…

  • http://www.pwc.com/techforecast Alan Morrison

    @Robert Young
    The financial services industry ranks highest on IT spending per employee, or at least it did a year ago, according to IDC (I think). FS just keeps its old apps, but apparently continues to add new ones faster than other industries.

  • http://drcoddwasright.blogspot.com/ Robert Young

    @Alan Morrison:

    There are two reasons FS comes in so high. 1) like any ancient bureaucracy, it maximizes bodycount over efficiency in order to maximize manager count. 2) maintaining that old COBOL/java crap is something a self-respecting IT jock won’t touch.

    Reason 2) is the main reason India is taking over. India supplies the KiddieKoders who are paid pennies/hour to keep adding more arms and legs and carbunkles to the twitching corpses. It ends up costing more in time, money, and bodies; but both the bodyshops and FS companies want that. All the FS companies do it, so the managers keep getting their bonuses for failure (oops, success in face of difficulty). There is no gain for these managers to be efficient, and much to lose. Again, on both sides, FS companies and bodyshops. The only way out of the mess is to replace the existing FS companies with new ones. Barriers to entry make that unlikely.

    Just as the banks would rather the whole world economy go belly up than relinquish their bonuses, these guys would rather the industry go belly up. Most of the top managements have millions socked away, so there is not much incentive to maintain the business. Another argument against the way executive compensation is paid.

  • Lee McKnight

    Tim,

    I agree with you and other commentators that Aneesh is a great choice for the obvious reason – he can help move bureaucracies in the direction of cost-effective, innovative solutions.

    It’s more important that Aneesh understand bureaucracy AND technology, as he has demonstrated on the job in Virginia, than whether he has an engineering degree or not. The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy will still be the President’s top ‘science advisor.’

    What the government needs is someone able to shake up ‘bureaucracy as usual’ and Aneesh seems the guy to do it. Along with Vivek and the rest of the team this looks to be the strongest tech group in and around the White House…since Al Gore, Mike Nelson and pals pushed the government and the country onto the Internet in the 90s : )

  • Andrew Inggs

    There’s still something wrong with the recovery.gov link, part of the closing tag is in the URL.

  • uh huh

    If Mr. Chopra and Mr. Kundra are *really* dedicated to demonstrating innovation in government, why don’t they stick around in state/local government and actually implement something substantial over the long term? It seems all you need to know is how to give a great speech and talk about vision, innovation, transformation, etc etc. Both these guys have the same thing in common: they are primarily interested in getting ahead in their careers and using government as a stepping stone to do just that. Otherwise they would have spent at least more than 3 years in their state/city government jobs. Can you see that Mr. O’Reilly or are you too blinded by Chopra/Kundra hyperbole to tell the difference between relentless self-advancement vs. true commitment to civil service in the interest of the American public?

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    uh huh -

    I guess Obama should have stayed in the Senate too.

    If you have a vision of public service, and you have an opportunity to advance it, you take it.

    Why don’t you reframe your question with a few other examples, to see how silly it is. “If Larry Page and Sergey Brin really wanted to provide access to all the world’s information, why didn’t they work in a library for a few years rather than building Google?” “If Bill Gates really wanted to put a computer in every home, why didn’t he work at Digital Equipment Corp or IBM for a few years so he’d know what a real computer worked like?” “If Marlon Brando really wanted to be a great actor, why didn’t he stay in theater instead of making movies?”

    Aneesh and Vivek had the opportunity for national roles because they’d done a great job at a state and local level, and because they were tapped by the new president. Not many people would turn down an offer like that, especially if they have a passion to make a difference. Why wouldn’t you answer the call to go onto bigger challenges?

  • uh huh

    Tim: I find it pretty interesting that you would mention Mr. Chopra and Kundra in the same breath as the founders of Google and Microsoft or one of the greatest actors of all time. Come on!

    It’s too bad that you and so many others have really bought into the hype and are fanning the flames. Just look at Kundra and Chopra’s records. Yes they have some noteworthy accomplishments. Yes they talk a good game and know all the right people — from Tim Kaine on down. However you cannot deny they are light on real, meaningful accomplishments in the technology arena or in government — definitely nothing I would even remotely compare to Google or Microsoft.

    Nobody will admit this out loud, because lucrative contracts would be jeopardized. But if you talk to anyone who has worked for them you might hear a different story. I’m an Obama supporter but I find it ridiculous that a former shoplifter and a healthcare policy wonk are leading the federal technology arena. They should stick to the minor leagues for a while longer before going to the majors.

  • uh huh

    And another thing: The comparison to Barack Obama doesn’t hold any water at all. How in the world would you compare Mr. Obama’s 10 long years in the “trenches”, so to speak, as a community organizer and as a state legislator, to Chopra’s mere 2.5 years in state government? Mr. Obama did the time, paid his dues, and has my full respect. Chopra is a schmoozer with all the right buzzwords and a slick Powerpoint deck. Sorry pal, no comparison.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com/ Tim O'Reilly

    Uh huh,

    You clearly have an axe to grind. Maybe you have “inside” information, such as you hint at, about the opinion of people who worked for Aneesh or Vivek. But the fact that you’re making vague accusations from behind the shield of an anonymous handle doesn’t speak well of you.

    You’re right that I don’t know either Vivek or Aneesh well. But I will say this: they have great insight into how technology can make the government more effective. You may complain that they didn’t spend enough time in the trenches to “earn” that vision, but I can tell you that they have it.

    And as a result, I believe that they will be able to make a real difference in how our government uses technology.

    I know a lot of industry CIOs and CTOs, and I can’t think of anyone who’d be more effective in the job these guys actually have (namely to move government IT policy forward).

  • uh huh

    Hi Tim, the only axe I have to grind, as you put it, is based on having the right people assigned to federal leadership roles based on qualifications *first*, not connections, or industry awards, or media hype. If that’s considered an axe to grind, so be it.

    I don’t have any inside information beyond what I have heard from folks inside the Beltway and what I have read in the various blogs and people’s comments. It’s been mentioned several times in several sites and blogs that Kundra spent a lot more time schmoozing for his next big gig than he did in the trenches dealing with the tough IT management issues in the DC OCTO.

    I would have a *lot* more respect for both Kundra and Chopra if they had demonstrated true commitment to public service by spending at least 10-15 years in their state/local government roles. There’s a lot to be said for longevity in a public service position, especially in public sector IT, because it can take that amount of time to actually implement something real, tangible, beneficial, and of value to citizens. Without that type of commitment, I’m afraid Chopra and Kundra are just serial job-hoppers — all vision but no substance.

    And FYI, I’d readily support people like Eric Schmidt in the Federal CTO role. It’s too bad he passed.

    For the Federal CIO role, which is really just Karen Evans’ old job as the OMB E-Gov administrator, I’d support any federal CIO who can learn from OMB’s successes and failures in implementing e-gov policies, the President’s Management Agenda, IT infrastructure consolidation, etc, but also has the direct technology and management experience over a federal IT portfolio of at least $1 billion. Any of the CIOs of HHS, Energy, DHS, Treasury, Transportation etc. would have the management and technical chops to immediately establish credibility with their CIO peers and to steer the OMB agenda in the direction that the President has articulated.

    No more axes to grind. Thanks for your responses.

  • naive americans

    I really can’t believe this, I was actually a little excited about the stuff Obama was doing, until this. What a slap in the face to many hard working American’s with computer science degrees, just another d.c.rat.

  • KS

    Even with Vivek and Aneesh being such influential positions and Obama being so tech savvy himself, how can they explain Recovery.gov lacking so much in it’s intended role of providing “to the penny” information about each dollar spent as part of the recovery act.

    Looks like, it’s a classic case of Washington changing these guys than them changing culture in Washington.

  • just

    “outsourced to India” comments == code for racism.

  • James Voos

    Tim,
    With all due respect to your accomplishments in publishing and media, you don’t know what you are talking about when it comes to IT roles.

    I have spent 20 + years in the IT industry in systems integration and for the leading Personal Finance software company. I have a degree in Information Systems with a minor in engineering. Dealing with transitioning legacy infrastructure which represent the bulk of Federal IT spending is what these jobs are about, and neither the appointed CEO or CIO have any meaningful accomplishments in this area.

    And why should Americans support outsourcing IT development for the Federal Government to companies like IMC and Sudhakar Shenoy? Major outsourcers to India with a Reston Front? This is cronyism at it’s worst. Obama should know better, but he has little real world experience either. It will be interesting to see what happens to the CIO and CTO when they leave government. Board roles at IMC perhaps? Of course, we will all have forgotten about them by then…..

  • Satish Jha

    I have known Aneesh for a few years and he is clearly as good as any President may have picked. More than anything else, he is also a master of public policy programs. We went to the same school more than a decade apart and I thank you Tim for pointing out the differences in managing a public program vis a vis the market based programs.

    I became a CIO of a Fortune 70 firm years as the chairman thought I did not know technology but knew business strategy and managing people. Looking back, I think it worked well. I would like to think it may work out well for America as well.

    Satish Jha
    http://www.olpcindia.net

  • DesperatelySeekingAnalysis

    I am desperately seeking to not to view my situation (lack of employment in IT) without bias, but I do feel betrayed by the appointments of Aneesh Chopra and Vivek Kundra.

    The reliability of opposing views to this thread is not known to this comment author but at least some different views should be known to the readers:

    http://guestworkerfraud.com/vivek-kundra/

    http://www.dvorak.org/blog/2009/08/12/special-report-is-us-chief-information-officer-cio-vivek-kundra-a-phony/

    http://www.bendweekly.com/Opinion/17768.html

    I agree that much of the problem with IT employment for American engineers and computer scientists originates with corporate greed and mismanagement.

    I was hopeful that the president would take action concerning the effects of H1-B and age discrimation in the IT industry but with these appointments,and their possible relationships to Indian bigwig Shudkaer Shenoy and related Indian owned companies, I have little hope that jobs for IT Americans will improve.

    I have viewed the following:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAEWuCwB68s

    and find little in this candidate that I do not see from many software engineers producing books for OReilly or blogging on the internet or presenting innovative approaches at a computer conference.

    I will continue to review ‘internet’ analysis of this appointment.

  • Tim O'Reilly

    DesperatelySeekingAnalysis -

    The fact that you link to the Dvorak piece is a sure giveaway that you haven’t done your homework. Dvorak got his facts wrong – he checked at the wrong university – and has a long history of posting untrue and inflammatory material just to draw traffic.

  • Tim Coyle

    Tis a shame that these threads get bogged down by the self disenfranchised. If you are not employable or competitive with offshoring your skillset, wake up! Quit complaining and re-invent yourself!

  • Steve

    Let me get this straight. A private company offered to loan Virginia 270M in equipment and services and become the outsorce IT company for a 10 year commitment of 236M a year or 2.36 Billion for a 270M upgrade plus 10 year maintenance. This sounds like classic overspending to me. If that had gone for a public bid I bet companies would have been chomping at the bit. If you think my numbers are wrong, start listening at about the 8 minute mark.

    SK

  • Anon IT

    And so this system, masterminded by Chopra, now federal CTO has ground to a halt for days, taking with it critical operations of six state agencies? The Republic is in good, competent hands. Not.

  • wolverlink

    “naive americans [12 May 2009 05:06 PM]

    I really can’t believe this, I was actually a little excited about the stuff Obama was doing, until this. What a slap in the face to many hard working American’s with computer science degrees, just another d.c.rat.”

    What he really means is: I don’t like the CTO being Indian, how come he is not white?