Obama Names Innovation Team

 
 
By Roy Mark  |  Posted 2008-11-26
 
 
 

Assembling a team of telecom lawyers with deep roots at the FCC Federal Communications Commission, technology industry leaders, academics, financial experts and former government officials, President-elect Barack Obama named his technology, innovation and government policy reform working group Nov. 25.

Heading the group will be telecom analyst Blair Levin, Google's Sonal Shah and former IAC/InterActiveCorp executive Julius Genachowski. Both Levin and Genachowski worked in the 1990s for former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, a Bill Clinton appointee. Shah is head of Google's global development efforts.

According to the president-elect's Web site, Obama's innovation agenda seeks to "leverage technology to grow the economy and create jobs." In addition, the agenda includes a wide range of proposals for a more "open and effective government" and a renewed commitment to science.

The working group will be organized into four sub-teams: innovation and government; innovation and national priorities; innovation and science; and innovation and civil society.

Levin and Genachowski have also been touted as candidates for either Obama's chief technology adviser in the White House or as the next chairman of the FCC. Levin served as Hundt's chief of staff from 1993-1997 before becoming managing director of Stifel Nicolaus, where he serves as the firm's principal telecom, media and tech regulatory and strategy analyst.

Genachowski served as chief counsel to Hundt from 1994-1997. He is the co-founder of Rock Creek Ventures and LaunchBox Digital, a special adviser at General Atlantic, and a member of various boards of directors and advisors. From 1997-2005, he was a senior executive at IAC/InterActiveCorp, variously serving as chief of business operations, general counsel and a member of the office of the chairman.

Gigi Sohn, president and co-founder of the public advocacy group Public Knowledge, told the Washington Post both Levin and Genachowski are "civic-minded" leaders who are likely to push for a more open FCC that only encourages citizen participation in policy making decisions.

"You have a system there where basically you have to be an expert to participate. The average Joe wouldn't know how to submit FCC comments and get things from the FCC because the processes are opaque and the Web site is so difficult to navigate," Sohn said.

Other prominent private enterprise members of the team include Dan Chenok, Pragmatics' general manager; Judy Estrin, CEO of JLABS (formerly known as Packet Design Management Company, former Cisco CTO and author of Closing the Innovation Gap; John Leibovitz, co-founder of Frontline Wireless; and Andrew McLaughlin, a top ranking lawyer in Google's Washington office. 

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