Who should be America's CTO?

Vote now and tell us

Poll It must be the longest and most public job application in history. The Democrats' presidential candidate Barack Obama wants to create a new post of "Chief Technology Officer" in the Federal bureaucracy - and Lawrence Lessig wants the job.

He wants the job so badly, it hurts.

There's just two slight problems.

Firstly, there's the awkward fact that the President already has a formal technical advisor: the Office of Science of Technology Policy. There are also technology advisory units for major departments. The State Department, for example. The United States Federal apparatus does not suffer from the lack of technical advice: CTOs proliferate like bunnies in an undisturbed meadow.

Secondly, there's the issue of the Professor himself. What will he do?

Well, we can gain clues from the very distinctive communication technique that is Larry's hallmark. The Old Testament prophet Moses had his stone tablets - but his modern day counterpart, the Professor, now communicates to the world almost entirely through PowerPoint™-style presentations. In these, selective key words are patronisingly emphasised for the hard-of-thinking. (Lessig announced his non-candidacy for Congress through such a PowerPoint™.) But when the issue is critical, he does occasionally use other communications media.

And we know Lessig really, really, really wants the job, because former blog celebrity Robert Scoble scooped a rare interview with him this week - and decided (after a little foot-nudging from The Great Man, just out of camera shot) that Professor Lessig would indeed be an outstanding candidate for the role of CTO.

Using the more familiar Babytalk™ medium, His Lariness describes [video 14:00] the CTO job as "a particularly geeky proposal that I find extremely interesting".

No kidding. So what would a CTO do, then?

"A person charged not with making sure the servers run quickly and efficiently, but a person charged with making sure the principles and values embedded in the technology of our government reflect the values of our nation," Larry explains. "Someone to be charged with ensuring privacy and transparency and accountability and efficiency are built into how our technology in government works."

Did you catch all that? It's like seeing Superman dash into a phone booth, and burst out as Clark Kent. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Alas, "process people" - technocrats like Larry and Obama, are also the world's natural bureaucrats.

But more to the point, there's the delicate question of whether someone who is so flummoxed by something as simple as a personal email program is the man to make the nation's servers run efficiently and smoothly. Especially if they appear to be a serial offender.

Critics might say that someone with such a sure touch for technology needs to be kept as far from the machinery of government IT as possible - but that would be cruel and unfair.

But for the sake of argument, let's say a CTO is needed. If it's not Lessig - then who?

We have drawn up five very strong candidates - and we want your vote. Read the pitches and have your say, by electronic postal ballot.

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