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Aneesh Chopra

Federal Chief Technology Officer (since May 2009)

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Why He Matters

The television shows that depict local and federal agencies usually have a modern building filled with new gadgets. But in reality, when imagining most government offices, think drab interior with a chance of high- speed Internet. President Barack Obama vowed to change that when he arrived in Washington, and, to help him with that task, he hired Chopra as chief technology officer.

Chopra is used to working in environments in dire need of an upgrade. As Virginia's secretary of technology for four years, Chopra helped develop a modern web site, using social-networking tools that ranged from the obvious, such as Facebook and Twitter, to the lesser-known, such as Ning, which creates smaller social networks. Chopra used Ning to get information to small-town Virginia doctors about combating obesity or immunization updates. With the cooperation of telecom companies, Chopra developed a map comparing the areas of Virginia with broadband access to those lacking it. To close the gap, Virginia asked for $100 million in federal broadband stimulus funds.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Secretary of Technology for the state of Virginia (2005 to 2009)
  • Birthday: July 13, 1972
  • Hometown: Trenton, N.J.
  • Alma Mater: Johns Hopkins University, B.A. (public health), 1994; Harvard University, M.A. (public policy), 1997
 

Path to Power

Born in Trenton, N.J., in 1972, Chopra quickly learned the importance of education, particularly math. His parents would make him do 20 pages of math problems a day before playing with friends - that was in the first grade.

Chopra earned a degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University in 1994, and then went to work at Morgan Stanley as an investment banker. He calls that the most important job of his life because it taught him what drives economic growth. But he didn't stay there long. He left to study public policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and gained a Master's in 1997.

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The Issues

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama espoused the goal of creating a Cabinet-level chief technology officer. Once Obama took office, tech enthusiasts' expectations for a 21st- century administration grew as rumors circulated that the candidates for the CTO position ranged from Google chief executive Eric Schmidt to Julius Genachowski, Obama's chief technology adviser during the campaign. Schmidt withdrew his name from possible contention early in the vetting process, while Genachowski heads the Federal Communications Commission.

The CTO position didn't get Cabinet-level status and Chopra had less name recognition, but he has worked for four years as Virginia's secretary of technology, helping build the Old Dominion into one of the nation's leaders in developing high-speed Internet access for every company in the state.

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The Network

Prior to joining the Obama administration, Chopra worked for Virginia's Governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. While working for Kaine, one of Chopra's co-workers was Obama's chief information officer Vivek Kundra.

From 1997 to 2005, Chopra worked in various positions at the Advisory Board. Obama's nominee for chief performance officer, Jeffrey Zients, worked at the Advisory Board from 1992 to 2004.

 

Campaign Contributions

Chopra has donated more than $24,000 since 1997 to various campaigns. With the exception of a $1,000 donation to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in 2004, all of Chopra's contributions have gone to Democrats. From 2007 to 2008, Chopra donated $2,750 to Obama 's presidential campaign.

 

Additional Resources

  1. Center for Responsive Politics
  2. Dalrymple, Jim, "Virginia to use iTunes U in new education initiative," Macworld.com, April 13, 2009
  3. Ante, Spencer, "Obama's Surprise Choice for Chief Technology Officer," Businessweek, April 18, 2009
  4. Schatz, Amy, "Tech Industry Cheers as Obama Taps Aneesh Chopra for CTO," Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2009
  5. Ante, Spencer E., "Silicon Valley Rallies Behind Obama's CTO Pick," Businessweek.com, April 20, 2009
  6. Ante, Spencer, "Obama's Surprise Choice for Chief Technology Officer," Businessweek, April 18, 2009
  7. Kelley, Jeffrey, "Tech secretary keen on service, public health," Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 14, 2006