Obama Promises Federal Technology Czar

By Roy Mark  |  Posted 11-15-2007 Print Email

Presidential candidate says he'll put government data online in universally accessible formats.

Sen. Barack Obama said Wednesday if he is elected to the presidency next year he would appoint the country's first chief technology officer to guarantee that the United States is "always at the forefront of technology."

Using the Mountain View, Calif., headquarters of Google as a campaign backdrop, the Democratic presidential hopeful promised his federal chief technology officer would promote a government Web site and search engine to allow users to track grants, contracts, earmarks and lobbyist contacts with government officials.

"It's no coincidence that one of the most secretive administrations in history has favored special interests and pursued policies that could not stand up to sunlight," he told a crowd of more than a thousand Google employees. "As president, I'll change that. I'll put government data online in universally accessible formats."

In a separate policy statement released Nov. 14, Obama said the CTO would have the authority to ensure government agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services to solicit and receive information from citizens. The CTO would also oversee a national, interoperable wireless network for first responders.

"Together, we could open up government and invite citizens in, while connecting all of America to 21st century broadband," he told the Google crowd. "We could use technology to help achieve universal health care, to reach for a clean energy future and to ensure that young Americans can compete and win - in the global economy."

Underscoring his pledge last month to appoint only pro network neutrality Federal Communications Commission officials, Obama again stressed his opposition to allowing broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast to charge content providers different fees based on bandwidth consumption.

"I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality," Obama said. "Because once providers start to privilege some applications or Web sites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out, and we all lose. The Internet is perhaps the most open network in history. We have to keep it that way."

Obama also said he supports patent reform and increasing the annual allotment of H1-B visas.

"We need to make sure that the next success story—the next Google—happens here in America," Obama said. "The Google story is about what can be achieved when we cultivate new ideas and keep the playing field level for new businesses."

Obama is the seventh presidential candidate to visit the Googleplex, following Ron Paul, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Bill Richardson, John Edwards and Mike Gravel.

"Senator Obama's plan would help make sure that the Internet remains a free and open platform, and that America maintains an atmosphere of high tech growth and innovation," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in a statement.

"We particularly share his aims of getting more Americans online, using the Internet to increase government transparency, and applying high-tech know-how to thorny problems like education and health care."

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