Congress created the Office of Science and Technology Policy in 1976, but Barack Obama was the first president to appoint a White House chief technology officer. In 2012, Todd Park became the second person to hold the position.
So what does does the position entail? "I function as tech adviser at the White House, and as a kind of tech entrepreneur-in-residence," Park says, "So what I'm really doing with a lot of my time is effectively running an incubator inside government."
Much of Park's expertise lies in mining big data, particularly health care data, and he's applied that knowledge to innovation within the White House. His office's Open Data Initiatives program aims to "liberate data from the vaults of the government, while rigorously protecting privacy." The program, inspired in part by President Reagan's decision to open access to the military's global positioning system in the 1980s, works with the belief that data can "be used as fuel for entrepreneurs and innovators to create jobs, improve lives, and advance national priorities."
Park joined the White House after several successful years in the private sector, but he does not have plans to leave public service. "I've discovered that it's possible to be entrepreneurial in government," he says.
"We have the ability — if you are a mission-driven entrepreneur — to make beneficial change happen for the American people at scale," Park explains. "I think the breaking down of walls between innovators in the private and public sectors is going to be key to our future."