Alec Ross recently joined the State Department as a senior adviser on innovation. He will work on leveraging new technologies to help fulfill the various missions of the State Department. So he won’t necessarily be a Chief Technology Officer in the sense of how the Department will use technology internally, but he will guide the Department in how it uses technology. In an important way this is a valuable next step in the modernization of the State Department. It follows the effort, prompted by a 1999 National Academies report encouraging the development of a science adviser for the Secretary of State (currently Nina Federoff).
By no means will Ross hold a position that is the technology equivalent of Federoff’s, as some would like to see happen in the U.K. government, but the work he will do (and the work done by whoever will eventually coordinate the governments slide toward more open government) is valuable for helping fulfill political and policy objectives with the help of technology.