Obama-Era CTO: Governments Need Tech Experts So They Can Make Better Decisions

President Obama’s first female chief technology officer for the US, Megan Smith, believes it is essential that governments across the world involve technology experts in their policy making.

Smith, a former Googler, was Obama's third appointment to the CTO role he created in 2009, joining in 2014 to work with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on how the country could benefit from initiatives like open data and on encouraging innovation by tackling regulatory challenges.

While the Trump administration appointed Peter Thiel's aide, Michael Kratsios, as deputy CTO for the US in 2017, Smith's old role - which she left when Trump took office - remains vacant. Trump has also failed to appoint a new science advisor, who informs the president of the impact of science and technological developments on political matters.

However, Smith pointed to CTO initiatives that have survived the change in administration: the UK-US partnership for the US Digital Service and the UK's Government Digital Service to share best digital practice, and the Presidential Innovation Fellows scheme, which sees tech luminaries join government as entrepreneurs-in-residence.

"The good news is that the US Digital Service continues, the Presidential Innovation Fellows [too], there's been over a hundred of these entrepreneurs-in-residence and they continue to come," she told media in a Q&A at OpenText Enterprise World 2018.


Katie Easton