Monday, November 10, 2008

A Chief Technology Officer for the new Administration

This morning was my first time hearing about President-elect Obama's plan to create a position of chief technology officer within his administration, an idea that was actually floated one year ago by Obama - the candidate. The CTO's mandate would be to implement various technologies to support more transparent govenment including open meetings, live webcasts of those meetings, and use blogging software, wikis and open comments to communicate policies with Americans.

Second, Obama has several other policies in this area that should benefit the engineering community as a whole . The president-elect is calling for more aggressive government support of broadband access. Specifically, he will seek subsidies for phone carriers offering both regular phone service and Internet broadband to rural areas. To date, carriers offering merely phone service have been able to claim subsidies from the so-called Universal Service Fund, giving them little incentive to roll out out broadband. Currently the United States is 14th in the world with regard to broadband internet access. Such a roll-out would improve rural internet access and provide a welcome economic boost to microwave component manfacturers.

Obama’s is also calling for a review of the decision by the Federal Communications Commission to open the wireless spectrum for competition. Specifically, Obama is strongly considering advocating that spectrum on the 700 MHz band be opened so that third parties can lease it on a wholesale basis. This will ensure winners of a pending auction for the spectrum don’t just sit on the spectrum and not use it, a move designed to avoid other entrants from competing with them. During the campaign, Obama appeared ready to support the right of service providers to interconnect with a licensee’s wireless network. Google is expected to bid on the wireless spectrum.

Innovations like and are building new tools to monitor government — to track influence, identify corruption, etc. These tools have been hampered by hard to access government data. Obama wants to make the raw data available: “So think about all the value that gets added to the free weather data given away by the government. This is the same idea in the context of data to make government more transparent, and less corrupt.”

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