Maggie Shiels

America's first CTO to be named

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 5 Jan 09, 08:13 GMT

Following the American election, a favourite parlour games in the living rooms of Silicon Valley has been asking: Just who will land the job of America's first ever chief technology officer? Well, the wait will soon be over because an announcement is expected on Wednesday.

There has been some concern that the person who will take up the post has not yet been named, given the president-elect's penchant for using technology to get his message out on the campaign trail and now as he waits in the wings at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

With just over two weeks to go, the role of CTO is one of the few senior appointments that remains unfilled. Many expected an announcement around the same time Mr Obama named his science and technology team just before Christmas. But it was not to be.

obama_cto.jpgWhoever lands the job, they will have no shortage of help in working out what they should tackle first. As I have written previously, there is a specific website that has been set up where ordinary citizens can vote on the CTO's main priorities. And of course there is the transition team's own site which has been encouraging people to do the same.

On, the number one priority with nearly 13,000 votes is "ensuring the interent is widely accessible and network neutral." That is followed by nearly 10,000 people voting for the future CTO to "ensure privacy and repeal the patriot act."

While the appointee will undoubtedly have to be someone who can straddle over the worlds of Washington's political power brokering and Silicon Valley's high geekdom, a range of names has already been doing the rounds. They include Google's Eric Schmidt, who helped advise Mr Obama and has himself said several times that he wasn't interested in the job and Vint Cerf, the so-called "father of the internet" (who's also a Google exec and Chief Internet Evangelist").

Other names that have been talked up include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and even, believe it or not, Apple boss Steve Jobs who will not be appearing at this year's Macworld in his usual capacity as chief Mac cheerleader, be that for health reasons or not.

Amid all the names, I note few women mentioned. And that's despite some strong contenders like Anne Mulcahy, the boss at Xerox, her CTO Sophie Vandebroek, Cisco's CTO Padma Warrior, Meg Whitman formerly of eBay, Anne Livermore of HP or Safra Catz who is president and former CFO at Oracle.

There, now: that wasn't so hard.

All of course is set to be revealed this Wednesday. Place your bets now, please.


  • Comment number 1.

    I don't think it will be someone from a really big-name tech firm like Google or Microsoft as there would be too much scope there for accusations of bias and favouritism. I know I wouldn't have any respect for or belief in someone from the MS camp, except maybe Ray Ozzie. So someone from a smaller company or academia would be a better bet, someone with enough gravitas in the industry in be taken seriously, but not enough baggage to immediately turn half the industry against them.

  • Comment number 2.

    CTO position oly belongs to a scientist or inventor within the field of technology. If you put a businessman in charge then nothing would work, and if you put a politician in charge nothing will be started before the budget has already been spent.

    Yup, it has to be a scientist or inventor! No compromise!

  • Comment number 3.

    The problem with a position like this, is that in the UK, the people in charge of similar internet policy, seem to have no understanding of the systems works that they are meant to be "fixing".

    It’s one thing to come up with happy fluffy save-the-world ideas, it’s another thing to put them into action.

    Take internet piracy as an example. Record companies, Film Studios and Software Developers are crying out (wrongly or rightly) for a way of stopping their material being pirated. The idea of cutting off on a three strike rule was forwarded and would seem like a easy solution. But its not that easy when you factor in things like proxy servers, encrypted P2P, using someone else’s WiFi, multiple users on one PC or even people not reading their email.

    I think this appointment has taken so long because it is going to be a very very hard job. It needs someone who has a deep understanding of the technology, and like the saying goes...the knowledge to know what can’t be changed and the power to change what can.

  • Comment number 4.

    We need a person who understands technology, definitely not a politician, they are quite clearly only in it for the money, not to advance technology for the benefit of the human race.

  • Comment number 5.

    [Following the American election, a favourite parlour games in the living rooms of Silicon Valley has been asking: Just who will land the job of America's first ever chief technology officer? Well, the wait will soon be over because an announcement is expected on Wednesday.]

    That is excellent news about the announcement of a new CTO on [Wednesday?]

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 6.

    What I've been hearing from rival mafia is that Eric Schmitdt owes his success largely to a global network of mobster friends. They also say that he was directly responsible for the 'obscene amounts of money' made by promoting child pornography produced by some of these people.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


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