Technology leaders

When US president George Bush famously discussed “rumours on the internets (sic)” during a 2004 presidential debate, his detractors had a field day. Here was more evidence, they hooted, that the president was an imbecile who knew nothing about technology.

The contrast with presidential hopeful Barack Obama could hardly be greater. Rarely spotted without his trusty Blackberry, the senator for Illinois is clearly someone at ease with modern technology, engaging with potential voters, and mobilising support – particularly amongst youngsters – with a campaign that has embraced social networking, text messaging and email. He even has a campaign office in the Second Life Virtual World.

Obama’s credentials as someone who’s serious about technology are backed up by his promise that if he becomes president he will appoint a federal Chief Technology Officer who could help politicians and lawmakers navigate the increasingly murky and crowded technological soup in which we all swim.

It sounds like a good idea, and it certainly has the support of many in US industry and academia who believe that the current administration is out of touch with technology and has failed to recognise the importance of the development and use of technology to the future prosperity of the US.

Which leads us to ask, could the UK benefit from a similar idea?

Gordon Brown’s so-called “government of the talents” – which saw, amongst others, surgeon Prof Ara Darzi appointed as a health secretary – shows that there is, or at least, was, an appetite in Westminster for getting experts involved in key policy areas. So why not take this one step further and appoint a government technology Tzar, someone dedicated to solving the challenges thrown up as technology – in all its forms – becomes more and more deeply engrained in every area of our lives? There must be plenty of likely candidates for such a job. Some of them may even be readers of The Engineer. Interested? Send your application letter and CV to Mr G Brown,

10 Downing Street, London

Jon Excell
Deputy Editor