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Federal CTO Sees IT Leading U.S. Out Of Recession

Aneesh Chopra is looking to other CIOs to advise him on fleshing out a more detailed agenda to best serve the president's IT agenda.

Chopra's busy at work creating "a network of thought leaders" to advise him on fleshing out a more detailed agenda to best serve President Obama's wide-ranging information technology goals around things like healthcare IT, a smart grid, technology education, and cybersecurity, and he implied innovative CIOs will likely be among his informal advisers.

"Traditional corporate CIO functions have largely been about efficiency," he said. "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, of 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 the CIOs interested in pursuing top-line growth."

An army of committees alone won't keep the country competitive in a fast-moving world, so Chopra's doing his best to look for game-changing ideas to meet the president's agenda. He sees a number of new ways to include the private sector in those priorities, including creating public-private-academic collaborations in applied research and development, and encouragement of beta tests of technologies that might not meet traditional specs necessary for procurement or grants.

"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, whether you get paid for it commercially or whether that's part of a civic responsibility or you could offer it to a commercial entity to turn it into a business, 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," he said.

Chopra is also an outspoken advocate of open data standards as a force for innovation.

"Envision a world in which the energy world had a very simple and common way of producing information on kilowatt-hour of consumption by the minute, 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," he said as an example.

It's not just bluster, either: immediately after meeting with InformationWeek, Chopra sat down to meet with three top Teradata executives, one of a nonstop parade of meetings for a CTO trying to hit the ground running.

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