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Obama's new tech, innovation and government reform team

President-elect Barack Obama recently appointed a team of advisors to make good on his campaign pledge to elevate the use of technology and encourage consumers to use the Internet to keep tabs on the government's activities. Heading the effort: Blair Levin, the top telecom, media and tech analyst at St. Louis-based financial services firm Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc.; economist Sonal Shah, 40, now chief of Global Development Initiatives, the philanthropic arm of Google.org; and Julius Genachowski, 45, who has significant biz and government tech experience.

Also on board: Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a 37-year IBM veteran who spearheaded the computer company's use of emerging technologies, including the Internet, open-source software and the Linux operating system, and grid computing.

President Bush took office at the tail-end of the dot.com boom, vowing to make better use of computers and networks to improve efficiency and cut costs (the e-government part of Bush's management agenda).

In contrast, Obama is taking the reins of a dramatically more complex and sophisticated system, which presents challenges such as cyber security and society's growing reliance on the Web in general.

Gigi Sohn, executive director of public interest group Public Knowledge, recently told the Washington Post that Levin and Genachowski  are "civic-minded" and are eager to make federal government agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission more accessible to the public.

The new team is another sign of Obama's commitment to high-tech; the president-elect recently announced that he would appoint the first cabinet-level chief technology officer (CTO) responsible for, among other things, improving cyber security, spreading high-speed broadband Internet connectivity, and coordinating the efforts of the top info officers of the federal agencies.

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