President Barack Obama bypassed Silicon Valley insiders this weekend by appointing Aneesh Chopra, Virginia Secretary of Technology, as the nation's first chief technology officer. But Chopra is clearly a fan of the Valley's technology, particularly that of Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) Computer. Among Chopra's initiatives during his six years as Virginia's top tech officer was "Virginia on iTunes U," an effort to get teachers and publishers to share free educational content on iTunes. Chopra also launched a competition earlier this month to encourage developers to submit middle school-targeted math applications to the Apple App Store.
In his weekly address, Obama said that Chopra's job would be to "promote technological innovation to help achieve our most urgent priorities from creating jobs and reducing health care costs to keeping our nation secure." Before joining state government, Chopra was managing director of health care consultancy The Advisory Board Company. That experience could be useful since the administration is promoting a plan to establish electronic health records for all Americans.
Pragmatic Silicon Valley is brushing off Chopra's east coast roots. On the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Public Policy blog, Alan Davidson, director of government relations, writes: "Some have said that the appointment should have gone to someone from Silicon Valley. We disagree. Chopra's record of being unafraid to experiment and push government to better serve citizens bodes well for his performance in facing difficult challenges and great opportunities."
And tech publisher Tim O'Reilly details why Chopra has tech cred and any idea that SV has been spurned is a "narrow view": "Aneesh Chopra is a rock star. He's a brilliant, thoughtful change-maker. He knows technology, he knows government, and he knows how to put the two together to solve real problems."
By Joseph Tartakoff