Obama's CTO Wants to 'Liberate' Data

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A new breed of technologies is emerging built around data "liberated" from both the public and private sectors, according to Aneesh Chopra, the federal government's chief technology officer.

"We see the rise of new products and services that we would never have imagined," he said, during a question-and-answer session at the Nextwork technology event in New York City. "An effective government, that's a partner, can open up the potential for information and networking technologies."

Chopra cited the example of Weatherbill, a startup backed by Google ( GOOG) Ventures and Sun Microsystems founder Vinod Khosla.

Weatherbill uses data from sources such as the National Weather Service to create sophisticated weather simulations. This information is then used to sell real-time agricultural insurance. "It's a whole new product for crop insurance," explained Obama's technology chief.

The former Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia has been a vocal advocate for stronger links between the public and private technology sectors since becoming the country's first CTO in May 2009.

Chopra explained that one of his biggest "aha!" moments on assuming his Washington role came when he realized the lack of modeling technology in small- to medium-sized American manufacturing firms. This, according to Chopra, was hampering manufacturers' ability to quickly design and then build their products.

"The mom and pop manufacturers that account for the bulk of manufacturing employment in the U.S. can't afford the tools," he said, explaining that the Obama administration founded the National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium (NDEMC) earlier this year to address this challenge.

Coordinated by the Council on Competitiveness in collaboration with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences and the Ohio Supercomputing Center, a host of private sector companies are part of the consortium, including Lockheed Martin ( LMT), General Electric ( GE) and Procter & Gamble ( PG), while NASA is also contributing to the effort.

"We have already announced the first batch of open source tools delivered through the cloud," said Chopra, adding that NASA, for example, had contributed some of its open source modeling technology.

Although still in the proof of concept stage, the CTO urged the U.S. technology sector to get behind the NDEMC initiative. "I would welcome the networking and information technology industry to partner up with the small-to-medium-sized manufacturing firms," he said. "It's a growth sector of the U.S. economy and you would do your country a great service."

Chopra, however, was not the only speaker at the Nextwork event who touched on the rise of cloud computing, whereby services are delivered remotely to users, either via the Internet or a secure link such as a Virtual Private Network.

"We are, and will be, embracing cloud computing," explained Shelley Leibowitz, CIO of the World Bank during a panel discussion earlier in the day. "You have to be careful of the contracts, and you have to be careful of the terms, but the promise of speed, flexibility and capacity is too much to ignore."

-- Written by James Rogers in San Francisco.

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