June 27, 2014


Ironically, America's first Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra, thinks that fixing government is a matter of faith. The technology to streamline the government is there, according to Chopra, author of "Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government," but people believe that government is broken and cannot be fixed - a phenomenon that Chopra and his successor, Todd Park, call a "wall-of-disbelief."

"This wall-of-disbelief is the single biggest barrier to us achieving the benefits of an innovative state," Chopra says. "My hope is that we can convince the American people that...we have the capacity now to fix these issues. It's no longer a technology issue. It's a cultural and faith issue."

Chopra insists that there are easy solutions to some of the country's most pressing problems. In particular, healthcare, education and energy have great potential for improvement. Each one, Chopra believes, can become much more efficient through simple fixes. Improving healthcare, for example, is a question of making sure that people know the right place to go, at the right time, for the right level of care.

The benefits of improving these systems go beyond social welfare. There is real potential for economic gain.

"McKinsey estimated that there is between 3 and 5 trillion dollars in economic value if we can find ways to make healthcare, education and energy, more productive through data," according to Chopra. "This isn't just about social good. There's actually a lot of money to be made. If you can make a billion dollars closing the education gap, our country would say, Thank you."

But with widespread disaffection, and technical problems like Healthcare.gov, Americans may believe new initiatives are doomed. The process of modernizing an organization as massive and complex as the federal government will take time and inevitably lead to short-term failures, says Chopra. But, though long-term advances may not be immediately visible, he believes we're living through a "complete sea change in the ways in which the agencies are operating."

All that's missing is the backing of the people who these innovations are intended to serve.

"We have the technological horsepower and the creativity. We just have to punch a hole in the wall. And I'm really hopeful that listeners on this show will help me do so."

Want to learn more about Chopra's vision? Listen to the full interview above.

Aneesh Chopra, government, Sci and Tech

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