The United States has fallen behind other nations in innovation, but has the capacity to regain its lead, federal chief technology officer Aneesh Chopra said Tuesday.
"We have failed to translate the power and potential in our nation's capacity to compete in a more globally competitive marketplace," he said in a keynote address to the Open Government and Innovations Conference in Washington, D.C. "Our public policy has failed to keep up with all we have around us."
Chopra cited an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation report that listed the United States last among 36 countries in terms of the rate of progress in technology metrics like broadband activity, research and development tax credits, and immigration policy, and noted that the country has fallen behind several countries in terms of the percentage of population with some form of college degree.
However, he said, the United States can regain its footing with focused innovation policy that acknowledges and capitalizes on emerging opportunities. Chopra pointed to a number of technologies where the United States can be a leader, and where the Obama administration is investing, like healthcare IT and the smart grid. "We are still an innovation machine," he said.
Chopra said that the digital era is still in its infancy, and said repeatedly that he was looking for "game-changing" innovations from companies, citizens, and government. In fact, he listed "driving game-changing innovation" as one of his key areas of focuses as CTO.
Among the pillars of that innovation, Chopra said, are open data standards, research and development investment, and preparing the workforce for jobs of the future. For example, in terms of the smart grid and health IT, the government is working with the private sector to figure out what should be standardized and why.
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