The nation’s first chief technology officer describes efforts to modernize the federal government.
A leading figure in governmental open innovation, Chopra served from 2009 to 2012 as President Barack Obama’s technology honcho, charged with bringing the latest high-tech tools and techniques into the business of an outdated, low-tech federal bureaucracy. The author traces his own education (in the pre-Internet days) at Johns Hopkins, his growing familiarity with the IT revolution in jobs at Morgan Stanley and elsewhere, and his work as Virginia’s secretary of technology, where he began initiatives making it easier for citizens to access government information online. Building on the latter experience, he joined the early Obama administration to help close the serious technology gap between the federal government and the private sector. His key goals were to spur long-term job growth and to increase private sector participation in solving public problems. In these pages, he recounts the open innovation principles he used to foster technological innovation across federal agencies. The principles, which he outlined in an “Open Innovator’s Toolkit,” rely on open data (computer-friendly and easily understandable), challenges and prizes (to find solutions), and the attraction of talented innovators. Chopra offers many examples of initiatives based on such tools, from the creation of a Veterans Job Bank search engine at the end of the first Iraq war to efforts to work with the private sector to modernize the country’s electrical grid to a notable success in making critically needed government information on situations in local neighborhoods available online to residents in post-Katrina New Orleans. Open innovation, he writes, can help solve problems “by tapping into widespread talent and the latest technology, while always putting a premium on pragmatism and collaboration.”
Valuable for policymakers. Although not involved in the recent troubled launch of healthcare.gov, Chopra suspects outdated IT procurement rules and political interference were the culprits.