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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.

Having survived their own dot-com bust, information technology CIOs may be the catalyst to help pull the country out of its recession.

That's the opinion of Aneesh Chopra, the newly minted federal chief technology officer and assistant director for technology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Chopra is just beginning to firm up his priorities in a role in which he'll drive an endlessly complex national information technology innovation strategy. His task will be anything but easy, and quickly he's looping in the private sector and pushing CIOs to think about strategy and innovation above cost containment.

Stepping into a newly created position as federal CTO only three weeks ago, Chopra is a busy man these days. His administrative assistant is able only to steal away precious seconds between meetings and at the end of the day, and he moves from one meeting to the next, including an interview with InformationWeek in his Washington, D.C., offices last week, with no let-up between them.

Chopra steps into his role during the deepest recession in several generations, amid pressing concerns about healthcare, the environment, and the United States' ability to compete in a globalizing world. It's arguably part of his job description to have a sunny disposition about IT, but even with the economy on shaky ground, Chopra sees a great opportunity for CIOs and the tech industry in general to help lead the country out of the recession and deliver on some of the federal government's most pressing IT priorities.

"The firms that will succeed and lead us out of this recession, I can't envision a scenario in which they didn't produce some game-changing innovation led by technology into their either existing product portfolio or the creation of a new paradigm," Chopra said last week. "It's a terrific opportunity for the top-line, top-level revenue growth oriented CIOs. Investments in game-changing ideas to improve the quality of products and services is very likely on the CEO's agenda."

As federal CTO, Chopra has the ear of officials in high places, including, as needed, the president. Every morning at 8:15, he sits down for the White House senior staff meeting led by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. He sits on the influential National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council, and his office will be the driving operational force in implementing the president's chief IT priorities.

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