America's CTO


There's been a lot of discussion about who America's CTO should be if Obama is elected. He's promised to appoint one. Someone asked me what I thought on Twitter and 140 characters just wasn't enough for a thought out response to a complicated question.

First we should be clear on the differences between a CIO and a CTO. Were talking about a CTO job here and that's a different beast than the CIO. At this level, I'd expect th CTO to be mostly about policy. That's a good thing. Technology is a big part of the economy, but more importantly it's an important part of the US infrastructure world and the basis for almost everything we do. Having a coherent policy around technology would be a huge win.

For this to work, of course, this has to be more than a token appointment to fulfill a campaign promise. The CTO would have to have the President's ear. Washington insiders will know right away whether this is the case or not and will ignore anyone without the President's support.

I've seen the names of tech CEO's suggested. I don't think they'd work. Government is a different beast and people used to pulling the levers often flounder when put in government positions. If he weren't a Republican, Michael Leavitt would be a good choice. He understands tech and he gets how to use political power effectively. The most important power this position would have would be "convening authority." The power to call meetings. You need someone who can turn that into real work done. It's not easy.