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6/15/2009
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10 Questions For Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra

Chopra talks about the role of technology in government policy, and advancing Obama's healthcare IT, smart grid, education technology, and economic development agendas.

InformationWeek: How do you make sure government doesn't stray too far into picking winners and losers?

Chopra: This office will focus on opportunities to spur private sector innovation and bring that innovation into government.

InformationWeek: How do you do that?

Chopra: The first policy lever is in the president's fiscal '10 budget. He has called for regional innovation clusters. I saw from my seat in Virginia the power of collaborating with Maryland and Virginia and D.C., specifically the power of building university alliances, a small example of what is possible if you promote regional innovation clusters.

Second, we will focus on better understanding of innovation as it relates to economic growth.

Third, this notion of university technology transfer is well-known and improvement in that process would benefit the goal.

InformationWeek: Our readership represents IT pros and IT management across the country. What should folks like CIOs and just IT pros in general be thinking about right now?

Chopra: Emerging CIOs are focused on ways they can deliver value to the business, whether that be to help spur a new business within the corporation, new product development, [or] new methods by which they create value for customers. I want to listen to the policy challenges and opportunities to support CIOs interested in pursuing top-line growth.

I want to challenge CIOs to think about ways in which their products and services might advance presidential priorities. If you are the developer of a product that could be repurposed in support of the president's healthcare agenda, or to lower energy costs, we need to start getting people to apply their brainpower and their creativity in ways that the traditional approaches to solving our nation's challenges might not quite understand.

InformationWeek: Let's drill into the opportunities that you see there, and what you're looking for on that front.

Chopra: There may be opportunities for applied R&D that are narrowly scoped toward presidential priorities, that might have to do, for example, with speech recognition in a physician's office. That's not really a core part of our healthcare IT infrastructure, but might be critical and game-changing if we have an effective platform. That may be an example where we try to find, through public policy, potential public-private-academic collaborations in applied R&D.

There may be beta testing opportunities for products that might not traditionally meet all the specs of a procurement or grant but are ready for consideration, just not traditionally adopted. For example, in Virginia, we formed a collaboration between hospitals, health insurance companies, and state government in the purchase of a platform for more streamlined e-commerce in healthcare. That's an example where there is a seat at the table for public-private-academic collaboration.

The third area between basic R&D and procurement is pursuit of open data standards for innovation. Envision a world in which the energy world had a simple and common way of producing information on consumption, and a private entrepreneur could capture that information, build a widget that tells me to do my laundry at 6, not 4, because it will avoid peak load.

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