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Aneesh Chopra Invites Entrepreneurs To Work With The Government

Ranajni Saigal

 U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra presented an insightful talk titled  "Innovation for America:  Restoring Growth, Reforming Government, Fixing Health Care, Expanding Opportunity"  at the "Legends and Leaders"  series hosted by TIE-Boston held on December 2 2009 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Burlington MA. Aneesh Chopra, is the CTO and Associate Director for Technology in the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy. He was sworn in on May 22nd, 2009. Prior to his appointment, he served as Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia from January 2006 until April 2009. He previously served as Managing Director with the Advisory Board Company, a publicly-traded healthcare think tank. Chopra was named to Government Technology magazine's Top 25 in their Doers, Dreamers, and Drivers issue in 2008. Aneesh Chopra received his B.A. from The Johns Hopkins University and his M.P.P. from Harvard's Kennedy School.
The event opened  with a welcome address by Al Kapoor, President of TIE-Boston who described some of the new initiatives that TIE-Boston has undertaken this year. In his speech, Aneesh Chopra emphasized the value that TIE had played in helping shape his career. He particularly acknowledged the significant role played by Desh Deshpande in serving as a  mentor to him. In his speech he applauded the role that the Deshpande Center at MIT is playing in spurring innovation in America and said that he has been introducing the concept to other Universities as well.
Chopra has been striving to use technology to make government as transparent as possible. He invited entrepreneurs to work with government via new portals, such as a request form for government data sets that could be useful to infotech startups, or an idea proposal page operated by the Department of Defense. "The degree that we provide access to government information in new and creative ways we believe can be the foundation of a new round of job creation and firm growth. So we are pushing a very aggressive timeline to push the president’s open government agenda, which not only means we’re going to have a government that works, but it means we’re going to focus on finding those datasets that if we released, could unlock economic value" said Chopra. He used a personal anecdote to prove his point. "I’m a little addicted to this Starbuck’s vanilla latté. My wife reminds me that it’s not very good for my health and I appreciate that input. It wasn’t until I downloaded this app called Lose It! (developed by Boston-area entrepreneurs J J Allaire and Charles Teague), where I key in my intake and it says, ‘You fool! Sugar intake is going through the roof! Beep Beep!’ I have slowed down my intake dramatically. The underlying database that powers this particular application? The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s database for nutrition. This is a story that you’ll see in many areas. I call this open for business. You tell me what data you want and my job is to bird dog that data down so you can get it, and do it not in years, but in weeks." said Chopra.

Chopra is also focused on making broadband infrastructure a national priority. "For the first time ever this country will have a national broadband plan. It will be issued by the Federal Communications Commission in February and it will be a key part of my responsibility to assist in the implementation of that national broadband plan. My primary focus is to ensure that we address concerns with respect to cybersecurity as we roll out that next-generation infrastructure, so that we can unlock the next round of economic growth. We believe there’s a story yet to be told - whether it be in cloud computing or in other components we’ve yet to determine - born out of this next wave of broadband infrastructure capability" said Chopra.
Chopra reiterated the President's view that to remain a leader in innovation , the US nust focus on making higher education a priority. He talked about the investment that is being made in the cmmunity college system. He talked about the need to use technology to enable quality higher education accesible to a large population and discussed the concept of intelligent learning objects that could understand the needs of the learner and porvide appropriate skills and training. He showed a picture of his father and uncle during their younger days in Meerut where they lived in a small home. "From that emerged my father a successful engineer who has many patents to his credit and my uncle who is a successful neurosurgeon. I would like replicate that kind of success in every home in the US".

Research and development also is a significant prt of his agenda. "We’ve committed to doubling our funding for basic research and development within our key agencies - the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Basic (Energy) Science in the Department of Energy - by 2016. We are on path to achieving that objective because so much of our stimulus investments were focused on innovation and R&D. The president has also challenged the private sector to invest in research and development and has called for our nation as a whole to exceed a 3-percent-of-GDP investment in R&D".
During the course of his talk he also touched upon the concept of "Reverse Innovation" where innovation occurs in the developing world as companies try to reach a different customer base. He spoke about using the Microfinance idea that he learned on a trip to India to work on a financial service model to help the poor in Virginia.
In addition to Desh, Chopra also acknowledged the significant work of  Dr. Dinesh Patel, Puran Dang and others and addressed them endearingly as "uncle".

It was obvious that despite taking wings and flying high Chopra was firmly grounded in his roots and had a great deal of respect for his heritage. Indian Americans can certainly look up to him with a sense of pride.

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