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CTO Aneesh Chopra Seeks 'Quick Wins'

By Ed O'Keefe

The Obama administration's top tech man told a crowd of web gurus on Tuesday that he's seeking "quick wins" that demonstrate a "big impact," aiming to aggressively expand the government's online presence by launching tech-friendly fixes in the next six months.

Aneesh Chopra
Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. (Getty)

"Not all of these initiatives require laws... This is just about mindset," Aneesh Chopra told a standing room only crowd at the Open Government and Innovations Conference, a gathering of federal employees, contractors and other web gurus committed to spreading Web 2.0 technology across the government. (Follow conference updates on Twitter by searching for #ogi.)

President Obama appointed the the former Virginia technology secretary as the nation's first chief technology officer. Chopra said that while the White House has historically placed different policy priorities into special offices headed by directors like himself, technology will be treated differently.

"When Obama was a candidate, he acknowledged that for too long, America had been treating technology and innovation as a box unto itself," he said.

"We need to incorporate the ideas, the principles, the opportunities that are presented by this emerging capacity. Not just in technology policy, but in almost every significant decision we confront as a nation."

For example, "When we build roads, we want those roads to beam out data to you so you can figure out how to get home." Chopra also pointed to Obama's late June announcement that the the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office will soon launch a new Web site allowing applicants to get status updates via text message, e-mail or through the new site. Obama gave USCIS, Chopra's office and Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients only 90 days to launch the project.

But the government does not and likely will not build, design or operate some of the best online tools for government data, Chopra said. He touted the Apps for America 2 contest, co-sponsored by Google, O'Reilly Media and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark that is seeking easy-to-use online tools that use government data or information. For example, FlyOnTime.us, a free resource that allows air travelers to find the most on-time flights between two cities. The application uses airline and flight information compiled by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, but was built by an independent group of non-government developers.

Chopra and Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra are speaking Tuesday at the OGI conference, launched by the Defense Department in an effort to share Web 2.0 success stories from across the government as agencies make wider use of social media sites and other tools including Facebook, Twitter and iPhone applications. Hundreds of government agencies have quickly relaunched their online efforts in the past year:

-- The Government Accountability Office Tweets links to the dozens of reports it releases each week.

-- The State Department has an active Facebook page that links to a State.gov interactive map plotting out this week's stops along Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's Asian tour.

-- The U.S. Census Bureau has an active YouTube channel.

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 21, 2009; 9:29 AM ET
Categories:  Miscellaneous  
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