Tuesday, April 21, 2009

President Obama's CTO: Aneesh Chopra

Photo From Virginia.gov
Like so many others who were playing the guessing game regarding President Obama's new CTO, I was wrong. I take comfort in failing along with BusinessWeek, ZDNet, Forbes, TheStreet, The Wall Street Journal and others to guess who would fill the office.

We might have taken a hint from one of President Obama's recent speeches to Congress, where he said:

"Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives."
-- (Transcript 24FEB09

Aneesh Chopra's bio on his Virginia website points out that he chairs the "Solutions Committee of the IT Investment Board, the Effectiveness and Efficiency Committee on the Council on Virginia's Future, and co-chairs the Healthcare IT Council". He was awarded the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's 2007 State Leadership Advocacy Award, and was named one of the top 25 by Government Technology magazine's Doers, Dreamers, and Drivers magazine.

In 2006, ExecutiveBiz.com interviewed Mr. Chopra on his new position as Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia. His answer to the question "What is your background?" lines up well with President Obama's vision for secure electronic healthcare records:

ExecutiveBiz: What is your background?

Aneesh Chopra: Professionally, I am a managing director at a think tank with a focus for the health care industry, but a big portion of my professional background has been studying ways that technology can fundamentally transform the healthcare industry in particular. Also, I internally helped launched the Advisory Board's first software-based membership business. So not only have I been researching technology and how I can benefit the healthcare industry, I have been business development wise active in the use of technology to grow our own business.

It was clear from his work in the job though that Health Care was not his only focus. Here were some answers regarding educational technology, another area on which the Secretary turned his attention while in office in Virginia, from one of the 46 Podcasts his office put out during his time there: (03/25/09 - Secretary Chopra discusses technology in the classroom --

We have an innovation imperative in the Commonwealth, and frankly for the country, and it requires us to think anew about how we produce students who are globally competitive. There are three basic questions we have to ask:
What are we actually teaching our kids?
How are we teaching our kids?
What are the tools with which we can allow the sharing ideas and the process of learning how to teach our kids?
In each of these areas there is a place for technology to play a role, in some cases a direct role, and in other cases more of an indirect role.

In his 2007 Accomplishments podcast (January 9, 2008) he stressed three Public/Private Partnerships, including:

a Google partnership to produce Google SiteMaps of 55 government websites, mapping more than 200,000 state webpages to increase their ability

Microsoft Virtual Earth helped create Campus Safety maps to help identify resources and plans for various emergencies on campus as a reaction to school shootings.

Cox and Comcast Cable began offering "GED On Demand" for free to more than 1 million broadband subscribers in Virginia.

1 of 3 new jobs created in Virginia came from high-tech jobs, and 30% of all wage-earners in Virginia received their pay from a technology related job.

5 innovators in HealthCare IT, 3 of which provided an 8-fold return on the investment. The Virginia HealthCare Exchange Network was created as part of the initiative.

Many other initiatives were described, making this podcast well worth listening to in order to learn more about how our nation's new CTO thinks about Technology. Many of these initiatives were grant-generated, by placing challenges into the community and asking for innovators who have solutions to step forward to address government productivity, broadband, and government IT.

To summarize what I see about Aneesh Chopra - he's proven that he knows how to solicit ideas from innovators, shape them into actual solutions, and roll them out as successful products. He did it in the business world, he did it in his HealthCare IT think tank, and he did it for the State of Virginia. I look forward to seeing what he can do for our nation.

I'm especially interested to see what types of reforms a technology thinker can bring to our Criminal Justice systems! At UAB Computer Forensics our partnership between Computer Science and Justice Science is based on the concept that when Computer Scientists are presented with Criminal Justice problems, good technology things can happen. Hopefully this will be one of our new CTO's priority areas as well.

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