Everyone likes dropping names on who Obama should hire as the ‘National CTO’. Here’s mine: Bruce Schneier should be Obama’s CTO. He’s one of the few people in the country that doesn’t just know technology, but fundamentally understand it — and more importantly, the implications.
A lot of great names have been thrown around, but they make little sense to me.
The most popular name right now is Vint Cerf. He may be the father of the internet, but his skills and qualifications are in telecommunications. While telecom is integral to Technology programs, its really just a component. I think he’d be a great national SysAdmin or tech guru, but CTO?
A lot of people say Bill Gates – while I do admire him, he’s a software person. More importantly, would he really be able to divorce himself from his allegiance and interests in Microsoft?
The same thing goes to Eric Schmidt of Google; despite my opposition to them in light of our Patent/Trademark issues, would the head of an internet company be appropriate? And could he really be neutral , in light of the massive lobbying activities Google has undergone on everything from advertising to M&A to the radio spectrum ?
Jerry Yang could probably do a great job of making people use Change.Gov every day, but is that what a CTO is about?
Fundamentally, CTO is a management position, one that seeks to ensure the technology planning and infrastructure best delivers on the business goals. A high profile CEO from a tech firm, or CTO from a web firm may not have those qualifications .
The CTO would likely be overlooking
– Long range technology planning
– The integration of national departments ( ie: information sharing between FBI, NSA, CIA, DHS etc )
– The likely digitization of medical records
– The shift to , and implications of, new energy resources
– The role of technology in education, communications, and even national defense
– the list goes on
The only person I can think of that could handle that is Bruce Schneier. He’s not famous for running a huge company, inventing a specific technology, or having his name in the news — he’s famous for being a security expert , and one that is right. Instead of being a specialist in specific areas of technology, he’s someone that understands how different pieces of technology and systems are all interwoven; how they create a grid and affect one another; and for (often) brutal attacks on bad implementations.
That’s the kind of technology leader we *need* in government; I can only hope — whomever Obama ultimately chooses — its the kind that we get.