Home US CTO Nominee on Open Government: No Comment

US CTO Nominee on Open Government: No Comment

Aneesh Chopra, President Obama’s nominee as the US Government’s first ever Chief Technology Officer, was asked very few hard questions in a confirmation hearing yesterday and none of the Senators asked him anything about Open Government. The President’s memo calling for there to be a US CTO set a deadline of May 21st (tomorrow) for delivering suggestions regarding Open Government but Chopra told reporters he wouldn’t comment on his likely suggestions because he hadn’t been confirmed yet.

NextGov reported from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and said that Chopra only briefly alluded to the matter of Open Government in his initial testimony. That’s very disappointing.

It’s possible that none of the Senators felt qualified to ask questions about Open Government when it comes to technology; it’s also possible that they are disinterested or don’t truly believe that data transparency is in their best interests.

“No questions for Chopra…about the more contentious aspects of tech policy implementation,” writes TechPresident, “Not a question on topics like the electric grid or patent reform or electronic health records — the last of which was earmarked in the stimulus package for $20 billion in federal spending.”

It was just two weeks ago that the Senate voting record became officially available in an accessible XML format, something that not all members of the Senate were excited about. In reference to that policy, John Wonderlich, policy director for the Sunlight Foundation, told a Politico reporter that “the secretary of the Senate has cited a general standing policy … that they’re not supposed to present votes in a comparative format, that senators have the right to present their votes however they want to…it’s pretty bad.”

We hope that Chopra brings good ideas regarding transparency of public data to the new office of CTO, but it’s hard to know for sure if he’s not asked about the matter in confirmation hearings. Vigorous debate is an important part of openness, but yesterday’s non-event will instead be added to the list of departures from the new regime’s promises of transparency.

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