Responsibilities and Possibilities for the New Federal CTO

New CTO position requires an efficient strategy, not just a to-do list.

by / January 14, 2009

The incoming Obama administration has created an extensive to-do list for the newly created position of chief technology officer (CTO). Yet a BusinessWeek article posted on Jan. 13 argues that the administration lacks an efficient strategy that will allow the CTO to implement policy across government.

The article first recommends that the incoming CTO focus on tech lessons from countries that have surpassed the U.S., including Singapore, which has created national plans to progressively improve government infrastructure. The CTO should travel to various countries, sending representatives to gather information on the strengths and weaknesses of other governments. The U.S., for example, can study Estonia's disastrous cyber-attack of 2007 to learn how to protect government from the vulnerabilities of technology.

The administration should also take tech lessons from CTOs in the private sector, where most technological innovation has recently arisen. The new CTO should have continuous collaboration with the private sector in order to adapt new innovations to government.

The article also recommends taking approaches such as using service-oriented architecture to create a standard IT protocol throughout government. This will allow for better integration between federal agencies, as well as between federal departments and state agencies.

Finally, the CTO should act as a commercial diplomat, expanding high-tech exports and introducing American tech firms to emerging markets.

The new CTO can easily become an inconsequential position without an effective strategy for executing policy. By adopting practices used abroad and in the private sector, the CTO has a chance to greatly improve government innovation and America's global capabilities.

Read the entire article.