On Thursday the White House confirmed that Todd Park, the second ever United States Chief Technology Officer, is leaving the position to spend more time with his family in California. Park will continue to work for the government in his new position as technology adviser to the White House.
“Park will lead the effort to recruit top talent to help the federal government overhaul its IT. In a sense, he is doubling down on an initiative he’s already set well into motion: bringing a Silicon Valley sensibility to the public sector,” according to a report by Wired. “Achievements that Internet companies seem to pull off effortlessly—innovative, easy-to-use services embraced by hundreds of millions of people—are tougher than Mars probes for federal agencies to execute. The recent history of government IT initiatives reads like a catalog of overspending, delays, and screwups.”
Whoever takes on the federal CTO position will continue to have challenges with upgrading governmental infrastructure, managing more services moving to the cloud, national security, and dealing with the public’s continuing concerns over privacy and data retention.
Several names have been mentioned as possible replacements for Park. However, Bloomberg reported through anonymous sources that one of the top candidates is Megan Smith, VP at the Google X lab. Smith, the White House and Google all declined Bloomberg’s request for comment.
Smith started at Google in 2003 as VP of Business Development with a master’s degree from MIT in mechanical engineering and is known as a supporter of women in technology/STEM. She has also served as a co-host for Google’s Solve for X forum and in the philanthropic division. Smith is currently part of the Google X lab which is prominent in the news today with “Project Wing” , Google’s drone delivery technology. The lab has also been working on self driving cars and Project Loon, the plan to bring 3G internet to rural areas using solar-powered balloons in the earth’s stratosphere.
As someone highly involved with innovation at one of the largest technology companies in the country, Smith would no doubt be a great addition to the government technology team and the first woman named to this position.
It’s interesting that her name is the only one leaked so far as being on the shortlist for appointment, could this be an attempt by the government to shape public opinion? She fits with the perception that the Obama administration appoints more women and minorities to high level positions. However, as of last year the administration still hasn’t appointed any more women than Clinton did over 20 years ago.