A new group, DC ComTech4Progress, held its first meeting last night in a bar near Dupont Circle. Despite the organization’s infancy, its featured speaker of the evening was none other than the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Aneesh Chopra. Chopra is no longer the nation’s CTO – he stepped down earlier this year – but he’s still campaigning for President Barack Obama. And he had a lot to say at the “super” meet-up about the administration’s broadband investments since 2009.
Chopra noted that $100 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has gone toward long-term strategic assets, including America’s broadband infrastructure. He sees that investment fueling technology market growth and highlighted three sectors in particular with revolutionary potential: health, clean energy and education.
On the health front, Chopra focused on electronic media records, pointing out that 15-20% of American doctors had digitized medical records when Obama entered office, and that this year that number is above 40%. He also praised innovation around medical diagnostics, citing Qualcomm’s launch of the Tricorder X Prize, a $10 million global competition designed to incent innovators to create a device that will capture key health metrics, like blood pressure and respiratory rate, and diagnose a set of 15 diseases.
Around clean energy, Chopra talked primarily about smart meter growth, a device market he says is on track to double in volume over four years. He also noted that smart meter data initiatives like Green Button are already enabling new applications that help consumers chart energy usage and cut down on consumption.
Finally, Chopra highlighted education. He envisions opening up education assessment data in a way that would allow parents to track kids’ performance progress against key learning concepts. He also sees innovation opportunities around getting more technology resources into schools. Chopra suggested that the Amazon Kindle Whispernet model could work in an educational environment, where students would receive broadband access for free, with the cost subsidized by the content delivered over that connection.
There are many rumors suggesting that Chopra is likely to run for lieutenant governor in Virginia in 2013, and certainly his rhetoric has a political purpose. However, his championship of technology and infrastructure investment (both public and private) offers a distinctly non-partisan message: there’s a lot of opportunity in tech ahead.