September 25, 2014

Technology may be the underutilized, underappreciated key to helping government run more smoothly. That's according to Aneesh Chopra, who became America's first Chief Technology Officer under President Obama.

As proof, he offers up the case of Mike Krieger, a whiz-kid coder who helped San Francisco figure out a way to organize crime data. Krieger went on to create a company called Instagram, which then sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012.

Chopra, now the author of Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government, insists that there are easy solutions to some of the country's most pressing problems - from healthcare to education to energy. And he says that brilliant techies don't need to go work for the government. They can donate nights, weekends, and spare hours here and there.

But with widespread disaffection, Chopra worries that 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 lead to some short-term failures, he says. 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."

A "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."

Aneesh Chopra, government, Sci and Tech

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