A few months ago, Andrew Hoppin was advising President Obama’s NASA transition team and contemplating his next move. He was settling back into New York after leaving the NASA Ames Research Center near Sunnyvale, Calif., where he co-founded and managed the NASA CoLab—a program that aimed to bring efficiency and transparency to the creaky government agency through new technologies. He encouraged astronauts to Twitter from space.
But after more than two years at the agency, he was itching to get more involved in the “government 2.0” initiatives that Mr. Obama and his new-media team were working on in Washington.
So in January, he approached his friend, Andrew Rasiej, a fixture in political tech circles. It was perfect timing; since early January, Mr. Rasiej and Micah Sifry, co-founders of Personal Democracy Forum and techPresident.com, had been advising the New York Senate majority leader, Malcolm Smith, on using technology to make Albany more open, transparent and efficient—the same kind of work Mr. Hoppin had been doing at NASA. Mr. Rasiej encouraged Mr. Hoppin to consider applying his talents to New York State.
“I told him, Obama’s people will be looking over your shoulder because they won’t be able to move fast enough,” Mr. Rasiej told The Observer. In the Senate, Mr. Rasiej explained, Mr. Hoppin had the opportunity to “move the ball farther” and set an example for upgrading government for every state in the nation.
“They convinced me that they were really serious about this,” said Mr. Hoppin, 37, who is mild-mannered, of medium height and wears gray suits with blue shirts to match his watery eyes (late nights). “They would take Albany, which doesn’t have the best reputation for being the most efficient place, and do it right with transparency and technology.” Mr. Smith, along with Senate secretary Angelo Aponte, appointed Mr. Hoppin to be the first ever chief information officer in the New York State Senate.