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Who Should Be America's First CTO?

Speculation grows as former IAC executive Julius Genachowski is appointed to President Elect Obama's transition team

Add Your Own Nomination Here...

Eric Schmidt? Bill Joy? Steve Ballmer? Bruce Schneier? Ray Kurzweil? Richard Stallman? Vint Cerf? Mitch Kapor? Tom Perkins?

As former IAC executive Julius Genachowski was appointed last week to President Elect Obama's transition team, speculation is growing as to the possibility that Genachowski or someone like him may one day soon become the country's first Chief Technology Officer. Barack Obama's transition team also includes Sonal Shah of Google.org and Donald Gips, VP of corporate strategy and development for Level 3 Communications.

The notion of a CTO was first raised in Obama's Tech and Innovation Plan, produced by a group that was chaired by Genachowski.

In his Presidential announcement speech in Springfield, IL, back in 2007, Obama said:

"Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.”

Meantime in a document entitled 'CONNECTING AND EMPOWERING ALL AMERICANS THROUGH TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION' (PDF document), his campaign stated:

"Obama will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21 st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

• The CTO will have a specific focus on transparency, by ensuring that each arm of the federal government makes its records open and accessible as the E-Government Act requires. The CTO will also focus on using new technologies to solicit and receive information back from citizens to improve the functioning of democratic government.

• The CTO will also ensure technological interoperability of key government functions. For example, the Chief Technology Officer will oversee the development of a national, interoperable wireless network for local, state and federal first responders as the 9/11 commission recommended. This will ensure that fire officials, police officers and EMTs from different jurisdictions have the ability to communicate with each other during a crisis and we do not have a repeat of the failure to deliver critical public services that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

Other candidates for the nation's CTO position being mooted in the press are: Google's CEO Eric Schmidt (who recently told reporters "I'm actually very busy running Google") or - perhaps less likely - Sun co-founder Bill Joy.

Developers and engineers have already chipped in at Slashdot with suggestions ranging from the American cryptographer, computer security specialist and writer Bruce Schneier to artificial intelligence wiz and all-round legendary technologist Ray Kurzweil - and even RMS (Richard Stallman), veteran software developer and founder of the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation. Others mentioned: EFF Co-Founder Mitch Kapor, Google's Vint Cerf, Sun co-founder Vinod Khosla, and Tom Perkins co-founder of VC visionaries Kleiner-Perkins.)

Who do YOU think should be America's CTO? Leave your nominations here!

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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monkfish 11/27/08 08:49:34 AM EST

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Alan_R_Williamson 11/07/08 08:18:56 AM EST

As left-field as it may sound, I wouldn't dismiss Bill Gates for the role. He's one of the view 'techies' that commands an audience with most governments around the world

Now that he has stepped down from Microsoft, given up a potential career in TV adverts, the man is looking for a new challenge.