Todd Park: Who is President Obama's New CTO?

 @redletterdave
on March 09 2012 3:20 PM

On Friday, President Barack Obama appointed Todd Park, a 39-year-old former entrepreneur and founder of Athenahealth, to be the new U.S. Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Park takes over for Aneesh Chopra, the first U.S. CTO, who resigned in February.

It is possible to be entrepreneurial in the U.S. government, Park told Bloomberg Businessweek. It's possible for government to execute major projects at Silicon Valley speed.

President Obama created the CTO position on his first day as president in January 2009, with hopes to both modernize the government and find ways for technology to help the U.S. meet its goals, such as cutting health care spending and costs, and creating more jobs.

Chopra was selected as the first CTO for his background in government service and healthcare, and that's exactly what the Obama administration was looking for in Chopra's replacement. Not only does Park have a similar background in healthcare and government service, but Park also has experience in launching start-ups and developing them into highly sucessful companies. Park understands how to build lean, agile companies, and knows how to use technology to make them more efficient.

He is not a Washington guy, said Tim O'Reilly, founder of Sebastopol, Calif.-based O'Reilly Media, who called Park one of the best data scientists around. He's a technology guy who is trying to figure out how to make the health-care system work.

Park was formerly the CTO of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since 2009, where he helped bring big data to healthcare by helping create an open health care data platform similar to the National Weather Service, which could feed data to commercial websites and applications. He wanted to be able to use technology to show the government all of the ways its healthcare system is inefficient. 

Technology is never a panacea, but it can be an enabler of significantly improved health care and health-care systems, Park told Bloomberg in February. For example, there are key features of the Affordable Care Act that change how Medicare and Medicaid pay to reward keeping people healthy. Doctors will be funded and [provided incentives] to take actions that help avoid preventable complications, ER visits, and hospital admissions. Mobile technology and data analytics to help doctors identify care gaps, engage patients outside the medical office and at home through e-mails, follow-up through mobile apps, and to communicate with other doctors, are critical enablers for this kind of coordinated care.

Park is all about open innovation and crowdsourcing to involve more people outside the government in government issues. Park understands that the government's problems cannot solely be solved from within, and that releasing health data to the public can help the government achieve their goals and create new business opportunities faster.

Fast-paced is what Park is used to. He and a small team built HealthCare.gov, the first government website that gives customers a searchable database of public and private health insurance plans according to zip code, in just 90 days. The Kaiser Family Foundation lists Park's HealthCare.gov as one of the first major highlights in the implementation of healthcare reform.

Before joining the Obama administration, Park helped co-found AthenaHealth and Castlight Health, and also served as a senior adviser to Ashoka, a global incubator for social entrepreneurs. At Ashoka, Park helped launch a venture called Healthpoint Services, which sought to bring affordable drugs, water, and health services to rural villages in India. Last year, Park's Healthpoint Services won the Sankalp Award for the most innovative and promising health-oriented social enterprise in India.

Park will now try to replace Chopra, who served as the U.S. CTO for three years and helped create the President's National Wireless Initiative and the set of Internet Policy Principles that helped call for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

Park, who is currently married with two children, was born in 1973 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Korean immigrant parents. Park graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics.

What do you think of Park? Is he a good fit for CTO? Let us know in the comments section below.

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