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NRI to assist Virginia's governor

Aneesh Chopra has been appointed secy of technology. NRI Achievers 2005

india Updated: Jan 04, 2006 12:12 IST

Indian American Aneesh Chopra is steadily realising his teenage dream of being in politics. He has been appointed by the governor-elect of Virginia as his secretary of technology.

Chopra, 33, hopes his first political appointment, during which he will work with Governor-elect Democrat Tim Kaine, will lead him to other things political.

"By definition, working in the governor's cabinet, I would be working side by side on his agenda," he emphasises.

"I have always had a passion for public service but a desire to achieve professionally first," Chopra spoke from his office as managing director of the influential Advisory Board in Washington DC.

Since he was a teenager, Chopra attached himself to Democrats running for office, including the surge of young Indian Americans who ran for public office more than 10 years ago attracted by then Arkansas governor Bill Clinton's energising campaign.

"I volunteered as much as I could to remain active in politics," says Chopra who takes up his new office on January 14, taking leave of absence from the Advisory Board where he advises best practices to the health industry, especially hospitals.

"My primary objective was to achieve the level of partner at a firm," before plunging into anything political.

Born and brought up in New Jersey, Chopra achieved his professional objective when in 2002, after five years at the Advisory Board, he was elected managing director. Then came the time for him to realise his political dreams.

"I've been a partner for more than two years, and this election opened up a window of opportunities for me to play a more active role in public service. Kaine's election offered me the opportunity to take on this formal role," he said.

Chopra in his new job has to ensure efficient use of technology across the government; promote Virginia's technology-based economy; and to seek future and emerging industries in the state.

Though not a techie, Chopra says his experience equips him for this role. He openly credits his present appointment to the increasing visibility and clout of Indian Americans in Virginia and the key staffers in former governor Mark Warner's office.

"I think my Indian American heritage and relationships were a key factor in my appointment. I do believe that. It is because of the political maturity of the Indian American. A lot of people in the community pulled for me," Chopra says proudly.

Despite not being a techie, Chopra lists his major advantages in the new position:

"I understand the translation between capabilities of new technology and the underlying business purpose involved; I am extremely passionate about transforming how government provides services; and you have to earn the trust of the key parties involved, and over the past five years I have been working toward that goal."

Chopra points to the role Indians in various high administrative positions have played in marrying technology and government. "There are three Indian Americans who have similar responsibilities - Gopal Khanna, CIO in Minnesota; PK Aggarwal, California director of technology services", and now him.

"These are hopefully a new breed of leaders that can marry the opportunities of technology with the needs of governments. It's interesting to note that where you see Indian Americans is at the intersection of technology and policy."

First Published: Jan 04, 2006 10:01 IST