Gopal Khanna is a new kind of public CIO -- one who adroitly blends public- and private-sector service, IT know-how and modern business management skills to create a more dynamic role within government.

Khanna has degrees in economics, mathematics and political science from his native India. He earned an MBA in the U.S. and steadily climbed the corporate ladder with various positions in New York, Florida and Minnesota, before joining the George W. Bush administration in Washington, D.C. He held senior executive policy positions, culminating in the posts of CIO and CFO at the Peace Corps.

In 2005, Khanna joined Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's Cabinet as state CIO, where he made a mark both within the state and nationally as a business- and tech-savvy IT executive who has worked quickly and tirelessly to align Minnesota's technology investments with the governor's agenda. While most of the initiatives Khanna led haven't been headline-grabbing, they include the sort of work that lays the foundation for moving Minnesota into the 21st century in terms of better services and a better-run government.

Video: NASCIO urges better support for critical IT systems.

However, one initiative does stand out. Khanna hashed out a series of IT requirements that have standardized how laptops, desktops, servers and storage systems are procured and are saving the state more than $20 million annually.

In 2008, Khanna was elected president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers by his peers, capping a stellar career and highlighting his ascendancy as one of America's premier public CIOs.