February 29, 2008 By Jim Meyers
Aneesh Chopra has a unique job. As Virginia's secretary of technology, he focuses on operational policy for government and promoting economic development relative to the tech industry. While the state has a CIO - Lem Stewart, who was named to Government Technology's Top 25 in 2006 - Chopra functions more as an adviser to Gov. Tim Kaine.
The position gives Chopra an interesting view of both government and new tech business. "It comes together a lot more than you may think," Chopra said. "Often there are innovative companies that are entrepreneurial by definition, whose products and services trigger in my mind ideas that can make government more efficient."
The state's IT efforts have resulted in several awards in recent years. But Chopra says he's most proud of two public-private partnerships that benefit the state's citizens.
The first is a partnership with Google. Virginia is one of the first states to partner with the company on its sitemap protocol. This dramatically expanded people's access to state government information, increased traffic to the state's Web site by 22 percent since the partnership began, and made information on the site much easier to find.
Virginia also partnered with two cable TV companies - Cox Communications and Comcast Corp. - to bring free, televised general equivalency diploma (GED) classes to Virginians, at no cost to the state or taxpayers. Chopra says the pilot, which took only four months from idea to go-live, was the result of people exploiting a good opportunity. "It's exciting, because you raise an idea, you connect the dots with the right folks, and off you can move."
Both the sitemap protocol and GED projects have been especially gratifying, Chopra said, adding that he gives much credit to the people he works with, including the state's CIO. He said other key factors are the governor's commitment to technology, and Virginia's willingness to try new ideas.
Chopra also co-chairs the state's Healthcare IT Council. He and his colleagues are working on a new model for value-based health care that would change the way technology and health care intersect. It's all in a day's work for a guy with a unique job.
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