Obama picks Virginia technology leader for CTO post

In his new post, Aneesh Chopra is tasked with leveraging technology to address urgent needs like job creation, security, and health care reform, the president says.

This post was updated several times after 12:30 PDT with industry reaction.

President Barack Obama, in his weekly address Saturday, announced the appointment of Aneesh Chopra to serve as the nation's first chief technology officer.

Chopra, who is currently Virginia's secretary of technology, "will promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities--from creating jobs and reducing health care costs to keeping our nation secure," Obama said.

Aneesh Chopra
Aneesh Chopra, Virginia's secretary of technology, is President Obama's pick for the nation's first chief technology officer. Virginia.gov

At the same time, Obama also announced the appointment of executive and management consultant Jeffery Zients to be the administration's chief performance officer. Zients, along with Chopra "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," the president said.

Chopra has led his commonwealth's "strategy to effectively leverage technology in government reform, to promote Virginia's innovation agenda, and to foster technology-related economic development," according to a White House press release.

Prior to his Virginia post, Chopra was managing director for the Advisory Board Company, where he advised executives on health care operations. That likely prepared him for Obama's proposed health care reforms, which focus heavily on information technology .

At the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee's State of the Net Conference in Washington earlier this year, Chopra talked of Virginia's initiatives to improve aspects of governance in areas like health care and education.

For example, Virginia was set to debut its physics "flexbook," comprised of Web-based instructional materials that cover areas of physics in which Virginia's traditional curriculum is lacking.

"You can make information more accessible, collaborate more, and people can do more to hold their elected officials more accountable," said Chopra, who was one of a team of volunteers serving on the Obama transition's technology, innovation and government reform police working group.

Although Chopra had reportedly been under consideration for months for a job in the administration and had put in long hours helping Obama's transition team, much of the speculation around the post surrounded candidates with Silicon Valley roots , as TechCrunch points out in a post with the headline, "Obama Spurns Silicon Valley Vets."

Others, like Tim O'Reilly, are praising Chopra as the perfect candidate due to his understanding of how to build a better government with the help of technology.

Mark Rutledge, director at McAfee's public sector business and former CIO for the state of Kentucky, also had strong praise. "Aneesh Chopra is a fantastic pick, he is a visionary and a great communicator. If I was looking for one person to bring change, and create energy he's the pick," he said in a statement

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, also commended Obama for his choice. "Chopra is an excellent selection as he served proficiently in Virginia as Secretary of Technology and also has a strong background in the private sector advising the health care industry on technology management issues," he said in a statement. "He will bring to the position real world technology and public policy experience."

About the author

Michelle Meyers, associate editor, has been writing and editing CNET News stories since 2005. But she's still working to shed some of her old newspaper ways, first honed when copy was actually cut and pasted. When she's not fixing typos and tightening sentences, she's working with reporters on story ideas, tracking media happenings, or freshening up CNET News' home page.

 

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