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Federal CTO Agenda: The Industry’s Advice To Obama

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, February 19, 2009
8:24 pm

The issue of Information Week that landed on my table this morning contained an insightful article entitled, “About Your Federal CTO, Mr. President.”

On the his campaign site, Mr. Obama promised appoint a CTO,

“to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies, and services for the 21st century.” 

I applaud this position which recognizes that technology can be a positive force for good government if harnessed effectively.

The Information Week survey of 853 business technology professionals revealed that

31% [of respondents] say improving the government’s use of technology is the single most important agenda item for the incoming CTO, well ahead of improving education in science and technology (19%) and encouraging industry-driven technology (16%).”

Speaking as one who favors focusing on the governments use of technology,

“Bob Otto, former CIO of the U.S. Postal Service … says part of the CTO’s job must be to standardize and simplify the layers of federal IT management and the wide variety of technologies used in the federal government. ‘E-government was supposed to make information from every agency available to the public in an easier way,’ Otto says. ‘Now the information from the agencies is on the Web, but citizens still don’t know where to go to find it.'”


“many see a higher calling for Obama’s CTO. ‘Technology is a piece, and a means to that end, but the focus should be on innovation,’ says Sybase CEO [John] Chen. He envisions the CTO working to improve the economic environment for technology innovation; foster public-private tech research partnerships; improve education in math, science, and technology; and develop trade policies related to green technology standards.”

Whatever the focus, the scope of the federal government IT challenge is enormous:

The federal government spends more than $70 billion on IT, an amount that doesn’t even include the armed forces or intelligence.”

With such a huge price tag, with the promises that advanced technology can improve services, increase efficiency and enhance competitiveness, much hangs in the balance.  I do hope that Mr. Obama apoints a visionary CTO who can provide visionary leadership and marshall active support from industry leaders such as the ones quoted in this article.  I believe this CTO, whomever he or she may be, should seek tostrike an effective balance between infrastructure improvement and competitive innovation.  I look forward to seeing what transpires.  

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