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Change for America on Science and Tech Policy, Part 2: The CTO

Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President book cover

Basic Books

Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President

One of the first questions from the audience at this morning’s Google D.C. Talk concerned a topic of interest to the techies everywhere: who should President-elect Obama appoint as the Chief Technology Office for the government? The panelists didn’t make any concrete recommendations, aside from mentioning names that have been bandied about in the media and blogosphere, but while the transition team continues working on appointments, the other pressing question is what should be the policy priorities of the executive branch CTO?

No one has ever held the job before, but the forthcoming Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President, now in production and due in bookstores in January, devotes a chapter to recommendations.

Mitchell Kapor, founder of the Lotus Development Corporation and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is the author of the chapter and argues that technology is a tool for all aspects of effective governance:

Rather than being thought of as alien territory or an implementation detail, the next president can use information and communications technology, or ICT, to proactively drive both the vision and the strategy for a progressive agenda that emphasizes democratic renewal, opportunity creation, and a broader vision of security.

He outlines three roles for the CTO: advise the president on open government programs, work with the Office of Science and Technology Policy on policy areas where ICT is important, and help expand communications technology capabilities across the country.

Some of his recommendations:

Move fast. Kapor writes that the president-elect should appoint a CTO immediately, and make it someone who “deeply understands information and communications technology policy issues, has concrete experience implementing and managing actual technology systems, and is a skilled and collegial advocate for technology issues.”

Expand Transparency. “The CTO should be a champion of principles of open government.”

Listen to Public Concerns. The CTO should play a visible inside and outside government role, advocating for “the president’s information and communications technology priorities with Congress, the media, the private sector, and civil society,” and unify technology efforts across executive branch agencies.

The Center for American Progress Action Fund, sister organization to CAP, last week released Change for America in conjunction with the New Democracy Project. The book draws on the expertise of 67 leading policymakers who describe how the presidential transition should operate and what policies it should prioritize across a wide swath of executive branch departments and agencies—many of which play critical roles in the determination of the county’s science policy.

What do readers think should be the priorities for the first White House CTO?

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