Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The New CTO: Fostering Innovation

One of the many discussions going on about President-Elect Obama's transition is that of his promise to designate a new cabinet-level CTO. While the "beltway" is focused on Secretary of State and the like, Silicon Valley and the rest of the internet / technology crowd is curious to see if Obama makes good on his promise, and what the agenda of this new entity might develop. My hope is that this new era of unconstrained innovation (led by Facebook's application platform, Apples iPhone Application environment, among others) is brought to government.

President Obama has a tremendous opportunity to tap the grassroots energy developed throughout his campaign to foster innovation within government by leveraging technology. Activate the community to innovate. Provide APIs to government data and information to enable interested parties to create applications, gadgets, etc., that improve transparency and enhance the citizens' experience with government.

If you wonder what could happen with such openness, so do I. But recent examples prove such a model unleashes a cornucopia of innovation that is beyond what a single mind can fathom. Just take the new iPhone application, Ocarina. Launched just over a week ago, the application allows you to create a flute-like melody by blowing into the iPhone microphone. You can also listen to the melodies created by others. Silly, yes. Valuable? Maybe not. But already, users have listened to over 3 million melodies.

An open innovation platform provides the opportunity for the people to go beyond their vote, in influencing government. They can have a direct hand in precisely how government executes its mision and services.

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