In a first, the White House has appointed a certain Dr. D.J. Patil as the Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy and Chief Data Scientist, it was announced Wednesday.

Dr. Patil will report to erstwhile Google executive Megan Smith, who is now the U.S.’ Chief Technology Officer. “As part of the CTO team, DJ will work closely with colleagues across government, including the Chief Information Officer and U.S. Digital Service. DJ’s work will also include data science leadership on the Administration’s momentum on open data and data science,” Smith wrote in a blog post making the announcement.

Explaining further his role at the White House, she wrote:

“DJ will help shape policies and practices to help the U.S. remain a leader in technology and innovation, foster partnerships to help responsibly maximize the Nation’s return on its investment in data, and help to recruit and retain the best minds in data science to join us in serving the public.”

Patil, an alumni of the University of Maryland, has earlier served as VP of Product at RelateIQ and held positions at LinkedIn, Greylock Partners, Skype, PayPal, and eBay. At LinkedIn, the Wall Street Journal reports, he has been responsible for setting up Silicon Valley’s first data science team in the mid-2000s.

Before his stint in the private sector, Patil worked at the Department of Defense, “where he directed new efforts to bridge computational and social sciences in fields like social network analysis to help anticipate emerging threats to the United States.”

This move comes in the wake of the administration’s efforts to prioritize harnessing the power of technology and innovation, and more importantly Big Data. WSJ points out that in May, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy along with senior counselor John Podesta had brought forth two reports on big data and privacy, addressing the need for transparency in algorithms and data collection methods, and further investigating the extent of its potential abuse.


(Image credit: Jeff Krause, via Flickr)

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