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Obama considers candidates for first chief tech officer

Now that president-elect Barack Obama is officially on his way to the White House, it's time to make good on his numerous campaign pledges. Among them: his plan to appoint the first cabinet-level chief technology officer (CTO) tasked with, for starters, improving cyber security, spreading high-speed broadband Internet connectivity, and coordinating the efforts of the top info officers of the federal agencies, according to Change.gov, a Web site Obama's transition team set up to lay out the president-elect's plans for technology, the economy, education and several other issues.

Who's up to the task? CNET says that Obama's decision to include Julius Genachowski, a fellow Columbia University alum with significant biz and government experience in the tech sector, in his transition team may provide a clue. Genachowski, 45, was co-founder of Rock Creek Ventures, in Washington, D.C., which funds, launches, and advises digital media and commerce companies. He also served in executive positions for eight years at IAC/InterActiveCorp., a New York-based company that owns dozens of popular Web sites, including Ask.com, Citysearch.com and Match.com. Before joining IAC, Genachowski was chief counsel to former Federal Communications Commission chairman Reed Hundt and served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court justices David H. Souter and William J. Brennan, Jr.

Obama's transition team, headed by John Podesta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff and current chief executive of Washington, D.C., think tank American Progress, reportedly has other candidates in mind as well. Among those reported to be on his short list: Hundt, age 60, William Kennard (51, another former Clinton-era FCC chief), Michael Nelson (44, the former director of Internet technology and strategy at IBM), Daniel Weitzner (an M.I.T. computer scientist and a policy director for the World Wide Web Consortium), Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark, 56, and 53-year-old Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Tech blog Silicon Alley Insider speculates that Obama could recruit straight from the top tier of tech  giants. In addition to Schmidt, some others said to be in the running: CEOs Steve Ballmer (52, Microsoft)  and Jeff Bezos (44, Amazon). Tech venture capitalist John Doerr, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers earlier this week at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, floated the names of Bill Joy, 54, a Kleiner-Perkins colleague  and the former chief scientist of Sun Microsystems, as well as Danny Hillis, 52, chairman and CEO of the tech research and development company Applied Minds, Inc., in Glendale, Calif., and former vice president of research and development at Walt Disney Imagineering.

(Image courtesy of iStockphoto; Copyright: Ann Steer)

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