Just days after winning the election, President-Elect Barack Obama has recruited some of the country's foremost technology minds, in keeping with his campaign promise to
boost the U.S. tech sector. Obama's transition team, announced this week, includes executives from some of top technology companies in the U.S. Sonal Shah, head of global development initiatives at Google.org has been named to the transition team's advisory board, along with Donald Gips, group vice president at Internet specialist Level 3 Communications ( LVLT). Probably the biggest name from the technology and telecommunications sector in the transition team is Julius Genachowski, co-founder of technology investment firm LaunchBox Digital and a former chief counsel to ex-FCC chairman Reed Hundt. "They have found people that are connected to some of the more innovative and open companies," said Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association. "We're seeing the more dynamic side of the tech industry." Black feels that Obama's transition team choices bode well for the president-elect's ambitious technology plan. This includes the creation of a cabinet-level chief technology officer, an ambitious electronic health care strategy, and making government data more readily accessible online. "I think that a lot of people in the Obama circle understand that whether you're dealing with health care, education reform or budget savings, the intelligent use of technology will be a great benefit," said Black. The appointment of a government CTO is likely to be one of the first steps in Obama's technology plan, and there has been plenty of speculation about who will fill the role.
Media reports have already suggested Google ( GOOG) CEO (and vocal Obama supporter) Eric Schmidt, Internet guru Vint Cerf and onetime FCC Chairman Reed Hundt as possible candidates. Google's Schmidt told Jim Cramer that he would not take the government CTO's job during an interview on Mad Money late Friday. "I love working at Google," he said. "Google is its own exciting opportunity." Other potential candidates identified by the media include Amazon ( AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos, Princeton computer science professor Ed Felten, and even Microsoft ( MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer. With the announcement of Obama's transition team, however, LaunchBox Digital exec Genachowski is being touted for the CTO post. "Julius
Genachowski has a very close relationship with Obama, and he has a very good background," said a technology industry source, who asked not to be named. "He's very articulate and he knows a lot about technology -- he looks the most likely candidate." Genachowski certainly has an impressive resume spanning technology, finance, politics, and the law. Prior to founding LaunchBox Digital, was the chief of business operations at Internet company IAC/Interactive, and is also a special adviser to General Atlantic. Earlier in his career Genachowski worked as a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justices David Souter and William J. Brennan, and was also on the staff of the Congressional committee investigating the Iran-Contra affair. The executive has a long-standing friendship with Obama dating back to their time together at Harvard Law School. There is also speculation that Genachowski could be in line for the position of FCC chairman, largely as a result of his previous work with the commission. Although Obama made no reference to technology in his first press conference that was devoted mostly to the economy, it does not mean that tech will not play a big role in his administration. "Just look at the way his presidential campaign used technology and involved millions of people, that will likely be part of his style of government," said Black.