Opinion: Obama’s CTO Aneesh Chopra: Innovation and open technology standards are key

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The message of White House Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra on Thursday was both clear and irritatingly abstract. For the United States to pull out of recession and strive, government and businesses must be nimble and transformative, he said.

Fielding questions from a roomful of reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Chopra named open standards for digitizing healthcare records and learning by example from innovative technology CEOs as paths to nationwide prosperity.

The government is outlining a set of standards that healthcare companies must follow, allowing patients easy access to their own health data, he said.

Dictating a standard means that third-party computer developers can build programs that provide insights and analysis of a person’s records, making it easier to ‘navigate the complicated healthcare system,’ Chopra stressed. Google Health is one such application.


‘We want to build an open environment for those innovations to take place,’ Chopra said.

The health standard and eco-friendly ‘smart meters’ were among the few specific examples Chopra gave. Before the eager reporters in the room could call him out on his vagueness, Consumer Electronics Assn. Chief Executive Gary Shapiro gave him a good ribbing.

‘We have some very dumb laws here,’ Shapiro said. He lambasted immigration restrictions that result in competent immigrants coming over, receiving U.S. higher education and then going home rather than seeking employment in the States.

Shapiro aligned with Chopra on his beliefs in innovation. ‘Every company has to step up,’ Shapiro said. ‘Innovate or die.’

But Shapiro’s not necessarily looking to the government for help achieving that goal. ‘The government is often the barrier’ to innovation, he said, citing high taxes and bureaucracy.

‘We always have room for improvement,’ Chopra said. ‘At the end of the day, the private sector is what creates jobs.’

That doesn’t mean the government can’t learn from business leaders. The White House plans to host an ‘innovation summit’ at an undetermined time that will recruit ideas from CEOs who are ‘top innovators,’ Chopra said.

-- Mark Milian

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