This afternoon I attended a talk by Aneesh Chopra, the Secretary of Technology for Virginia, hosted by New Media Strategies.
Chopra described his rather unusual job, a sort of newly styled state-CIO position, and gave us his vision for government and the development of the surrounding areas in the process.
Chopra began by listing the three priorities in his job as a cabinet member under the Governor. He sees his job in thirds. The first third deals with tradition IT manangement (are the servers working). The second third is his role as emissary and cheerleader for technology in government, soliciting, recognizing, and fostering creative new ideas, like combining forms to orient agency workflow toward a citizen-centric model. In his description of this aspect of his work, Chopra really shined, probably a sign of someone engaged in something new and constructive, full of ideas, and seeing potential everywhere he looked. He said “just scratching the surface” and “really simple things” repeatedly, more signs of someone enchanted by the possibilities of technology, and in the right position to make things happen. About including the public in his work, he said:
We have failed to tap the hidden talent of the uncredentialed.
I’ve tried to say this before in other ways–distributed expertise is disconnected from policy creation, etc–but his formulation captures the real potential for transparent and receptive institutions. Chopra sees analysis from bloggers as having huge potential for stimulating reform (and should check out the Open House Project), and, as I often do, bemoans the focus on the political and wonders about people’s capacity to add to substantive policy debate and deliberation. His plan to integrate public policy ideas amounts to a small e-suggestions box for now, but Chopra is certainly deeply involved in the practical fight of how to make Virginia’s government function more effectively though technology.
He’s not just trying to get the government running smoothly, though. Chopra sees the development of the IT sector of our area’s economy as the third major goal in his work, and has grand ideas to test about how young people given a real chance and a computer might find their way into the new tech economy.
Virginians are lucky to have such a proactive visionary leading their tecnological development.