Obama CTO: Private Sector Needs to Pony Up

White House IT guru Aneesh Chopra wants Silicon Valley's talent -- and likely its cash -- to support Obama plans.
Publish date:

Aneesh Chopra, the country's first-ever federal

Chief Technology Officer

, has called on the U.S. tech sector to help deliver President Obama's ambitious

IT agenda


Chopra issued his plea at a meeting of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) this week in New York.

The White House tech guru explained that he wants to harness the nation's best IT brains to support Obama's plans in health care, education and energy.

"We will, and must have, policy reform, but we

as an industry have a role to play as entrepreneurs," he said. "Every day, entrepreneurs are coming up with solutions and tools that will make our education and health care better."

Obama gave technology a

high profile

during his election campaign. This included a promise to invest $10 billion a year over five years in electronic health information systems, a $150 billion, 10-year investment in climate-friendly energy, and an ambitious plan to boost the U.S. Internet infrastructure.

In particular, Chopra urged tech firms to throw their weight behind Obama's national broadband plan, which will be published in February 2010.

"Our average broadband speeds are lagging some parts of the world," he said, adding that around $7 billion from the economic stimulus package will go to the deployment of broadband.

Chopra warned, however, that the scale of the investment needed to build a reliable, secure and ubiquitous Internet is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

"It is highly unlikely the public sector will be the source of that capital," he explained. "We will bring all stakeholders to the table to have this discussion; we want to have a platform for economic growth."

During his keynote speech, Chopra explained that he had watched the




(AAPL) - Get Report

new iPhone and




with great interest.

"The iPhone, the

Research In Motion


BlackBerry, these new devices, they are consuming thirty times more bandwidth than a traditional, basic, unfeatured phone," he explained. "While this incredible growth is taking place in our consumer life, at a national level and from a public policy standpoint, we're struggling with a bit of a different story."

The 36-year old, who was secretary of technology for the state of Virginia prior to joining the government, told


that he is keen to start pressing the flesh in Silicon Valley.

"I am going soon -- Silicon Valley will be a critical community for my outreach," he said, adding that Virginia became the first state to partner with


(GOOG) - Get Report

during his time in Richmond.

Chopra explained that, at no cost to its taxpayers and no marketing expense, Virginia increased its Website traffic by 40%. "We just made it easier for the search engines to crawl government databases," he explained. "That

was about accountability and delivering for my governor -- I intend to do the same for the president."

The Obama administration, which recently unveiled its cyber-security

master plan

, has been adding flesh to the bones of Obama's tech strategy.

For example, acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps recently appointed Stifel Nicolaus managing director Blair Levin to help coordinate the national broadband plan.

"I think the market was very pleased with that announcement -- he is a thought leader in the industry," said Chopra, after his keynote speech. "We will have leadership on the broadband plan."

Obama's nominee for FCC chairman,

Julius Genachowski

, faces a Senate confirmation hearing next week, potentially bringing another big hitter into the administration.

Like Levin, who was a former FCC chief of staff, Genachowski also has a strong background with the commission. The former chief counsel to ex-FCC chairman Reed Hundt is a longtime friend of Obama and is one of the people


with molding the former Illinois senator's high-tech election campaign.

"Obviously, we would love to have Julius confirmed," said Chopra. "We have hopes that he will be confirmed quickly."