Buffalo native could become Obama’s chief tech officer - The Buffalo News

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Buffalo native could become Obama’s chief tech officer

Google Inc. executive and Buffalo native Megan Smith is close to heading to the White House.

Smith, 49, who was most recently a vice president at Google’s X lab, is a top candidate for the role of U.S. chief technology officer, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.

Smith is a 1982 graduate of City Honors School and is listed among the distinguished alumni on its website.

Last year, she spoke at the Chautauqua Institution on the potential of the next generation and the ways technology can solve global problems. And in 2012, Smith and her wife, Kara Swisher, the influential technology journalist, toured the Z80 Labs tech incubator during a visit to Buffalo, said Dan Magnuszewski, a founder of the incubator.

Smith would become the third person to fill the CTO job, after Aneesh Chopra and Todd Park, who recently resigned and is returning home to California this month. Park will take on a new role for President Obama’s administration as a technology adviser based in Silicon Valley, the White House said.

The CTO serves as a kind of White House chief geek-in-residence, tasked with overseeing the government’s use of technology, including finding ways to create jobs and increase the use of broadband.

Park helped to lead the effort to fix the much-maligned Obamacare portal, HealthCare.gov. He also helped start the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which teams government officials with private-sector individuals on various projects.

“I thank Todd for his service as my chief technology officer and look forward to his continuing to help us deploy the best people and ideas from the tech community in service of the American people,” Obama said in a statement.

Smith joined Google in 2003. As vice president of business development, she oversaw many of its most important acquisitions, like Keyhole, the service that underlies Google Earth. She has led the company’s philanthropic division, Google.org, and served as a co-host for Google’s Solve for X forum, where distinguished thinkers and scientists brainstorm radical technology ideas with Google executives.

Before joining Google, Smith was chief executive officer of Planet Out, a site for gay and lesbian Internet users. She got undergraduate and master’s degrees at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has been active in the FIRST Robotics Competition, which inspires kids to get involved in the field of technology.

News Business Reporter Stephen T. Watson contributed to this report.

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