President Obama incorporated technology into his election campaign in an unprecedented way, became known as the YouTube president within the first week of being elected, and seems to be forward thinking in his views on innovation and technology, which is why we endorsed him last year. But now we are almost four months into his tenure as President and leader of the free world, and the Obama administration has yet to name a Chief Technology Officer. They have, I should note, appointed a Chief Information Officer, Vivek Kundra, the former CTO of Washington D.C., whose office is being investigated by the FBI for bribery and money laundering (which apparently occurred when he was the boss).
Still, it’s confusing as to why the President is taking his sweet time to appoint a CTO, when there are clear issues that a CTO could be working on. For starters, there are tech-centric issues like the FCC’s National Broadband Plan to give all American’s high speed internet access, and the DTV Delay Act, which was signed into law in early February. There’s the Open Government initiative, through Change.gov, which seems to be in a stalemate. And certainly a CTO could lend his or her expertise and leadership in incorporating technology into the President’s health-care, education and energy initiatives. Take a look at the technology issues page of the White House’s website for a more extensive to-do list awaiting our future CTO.
And there’s definitely no dearth of talent for this position. The names that have been bandied about for the position even before President Obama was victorious in November include Bill Gates, Microsoft founder; Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s CTO; Eric Schmidt, Google CEO and longtime Obama supporter (but he apparently said no to the job); Vint Cerf, the so-called “father of the internet” and VP at Google; Lawrence Lessig, Stanford Law professor and founder of the school’s Center for Internet and Society; Ed Felton, Princeton computer science professor and founder of Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy; Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO; and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO.
Perhaps the Obama administration is being extra careful not to make another “Kundra” mistake and is carefully evaluating the backgrounds of each candidate. But this should hardly take 5 months. Regardless of what the holdup is, we need someone with true technology smarts in the White House soon. I mean, how hard can it be to find a technology exec that has paid his or her taxes? Give us your favorite candidates for America’s CTO in comments. Or take our poll.