THE OFFICE OF THE CTO

By: Ari

President Elect Barack Obama promised to appoint the country’s first CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at a Cabinet level position. As pointed out by Andrew Lipman, this is probably 21st century equivalent of the Secretary of Agriculture or Labor etc.

Some of the tasks of the new CTO would include overseeing all communications technology used by the federal government. Obama wants to have a transparent government and stream live government meetings and even let the public comment on bills before they go into law.

The current head of technology position (not a cabinet position) is mainly geared at cyber-security issues. The new position will include much more than security. It will address all government technology issues including wireless interoperability between all government networks and communications between the government and citizens via the internet.

One of the other main goals of the new position is to create a national build-out of broadband and help create jobs through this process. Helping reach rural and other undeveloped areas is indeed key to the 21st century and to keeping America ahead!
You can read more about the new position here.

The fact that such known figures are (or at least were) rumored for this job including Vint Cerf, Steve Ballmer, Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt shows the importance and the potential of such a position.

The world is going through a technology transformation, and as opposed to most transformations in the 20th century, the US is actually NOT with a clear lead, or a lead at all. Broadband, when we say broadband we specifically mean the internet and access to it, is becoming as important as any phone line and many of us would argue that they are already a lot more important (and thanks to VoIP they are a phone line replacement). The US is only ranked 15th in the world in broadband penetration. Not good!

Boradband is not only wired. The advances in wireless technology and new regulations will also mean a lot of work and attention for the new CTO. Developing the open wireless spectrum is one example.

Of course, not every one thinks this new post is necessary. Whether it is the title: CTO or the level of the position (cabinet level), the issue is certainly not the former. Call it what you want the fact is recognizing the importance of the technology challenges ahead of us and how important they are to our economy, security, and over all world position.

If there is an agriculture Secretary there is no reason not to have a technology secretary! And I don’t mean to imply anything negative on importance on agriculture.

The question is NOT whether “technology” deserves a cabinet level head it is about HOW and WHAT will this new position and department do, what will it oversea, how will they interfere with free markets, how much regulation and will it be the “right” kind… I will leave this for another discussion. The Office of Home Land Security is another example of a recent new post and as we know, it takes a few years to evolve it.

What should be taken away from this post is that the country should give technology the attention that President Obama seems to be interested in providing! If it is done right we will all benefit from it.