Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Where in the World Is America’s CTO?

With the naming of Oracle (ORCL) President Charles Phillips to President Barack Obama’s 16-Member Economic Recovery Advisory Board a few days ago, another Silicon Valley tech mandarin fell off the list to become America’s first chief technology officer.

The job–which was promised by President Barack Obama during his campaign and underscored when he released a memorandum on transparency and open government that outlined some of the CTO duties the day after he was sworn in–remains unfilled.

In fact, so does the Federal Communications Commission chairman’s post, which insiders said a month ago would go to former IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI) exec Julius Genachowski. But he has not been nominated yet.

Both Genachowski and Phillips were on a short list floated in November by The Wall Street Journal for CTO. The third name on it, Level 3 (LVLT) exec Don Gips, has since been named to a high-level White House job.

While the continuing economic crisis has sucked all the oxygen from the room, the Obama administration has still made a lot of promises about tech issues, from improving broadband to making the government more transparent and digital.

So, who is getting the job as head geek?

Could it be well-known entrepreneur Mitch Kapor? Google (GOOG) guru-in-resident and Internet father Vint Cerf? Or some other tech-savvy Silicon Valley figure?

BoomTown is, of course, rooting for Steve “Woz” Wozniak. Once he wins “Dancing With the Stars” this season, he will be the only nerd capable of the two-stepping one needs to survive in Washington.

Post new guesses in comments below.

And, until someone is appointed to fix the nation’s computers, here is the Jan. 21 memo Obama released about some of the tasks ahead for America’s CTO:


SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.

Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.


[Photo of the t-shirt from ThinkGeek.]