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Obama names new chief tech officer

President Obama has tapped Aneesh Chopra to be the nation's first-ever chief technology officer. If confirmed as expected by the Senate, Chopra, 37, now Virginia's top technology official, will be tasked with stimulating U.S. tech jobs as well as with using technology to reduce healthcare costs and improve national security.

Before becoming Virginia's tech secretary in 2005, Chopra served as managing director of the Advisory Board Company, a Washington, D.C. health care think tank serving nearly 2,500 hospitals and health systems. At the Advisory Board Company, he led the firm's Financial Leadership Council (established to sell finance strategy services to chief financial officers and finance departments at hospitals and health-care systems) and the Working Council for Health Plan Executives (which sells business strategy services to health-care plans and insurers). Chopra also helped launch of the firm's Compass business intelligence software. He graduated in 1997 with a Masters in public policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Obama announced his intention to name a chief tech officer shortly after he was elected but Chopra's name was not on the short list of those believed to be in the running, which was a veritable who's who from the Clinton administration. (Read ScientificAmerican.com's blog covering this.)

One of the few people to float Chopra's name early on was blogger Nancy Scola, associate editor of the Personal Democracy Forum (a Web site featuring blogs and articles primarily about politics and technology), who on Nov. 6,  just days after the election wrote that to fill the slot the new president would do well "to pluck someone out of the small but vibrant government CTO world, like Virginia's able Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra."

Obama's pick has received mostly positive reviews since announced last Saturday. "This is a position that calls for someone who is knowledgeable, and interested, in technology, but not married to any one school of thought or business ideology," according to Ostatic.com, a blog published by Giga Omni Media. "The CTO needs to think, and understand, the developers, but empathize, relate to, and experience the finished product as a community member and end user. It certainly looks as though Chopra fits the job description."

Image © Commonwealth of Virginia

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