Announced Thursday, Ms. Smith replaces Todd Park, who held the post during the federal government's rocky rollout of HealthCare.gov. The first person to hold the position was Aneesh Chopra, who accepted the position after it was created by President Obama on his first day in office in 2009. The CTO is a member of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
An experienced Silicon Valley insider, Smith will oversee the government's information-technology policy and other tech-related initiatives. She will also act as liaison between tech companies in Silicon Valley and the White House, advising the government on use of technology and developing new jobs in the technology sector.
"Megan has spent her career leading talented teams and taking cutting-edge technology and innovation initiatives from concept to design to deployment," Mr. Obama said Thursday in a statement. "I am confident that in her new role as America’s chief technology officer, she will put her long record of leadership and exceptional skills to work on behalf of the American people."
Smith holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has held stints at several technology companies before moving to Google, including PlanetOut, a LGBT online community; General Magic, a handheld communications company; and Apple.
At Google, she played a lead role in acquiring such platforms as Google Earth, Google Maps, and Picasa, in addition to serving as general manager of Google.org, the search giant's charitable wing. Most recently, Smith has been vice president of Google X, Google's secretive facility that develops ambitious new projects, such as the self-driving car.
"Megan has inspired so many people through her commitment to inclusion and innovation," Google cofounder Sergey Brin, who oversees Google X, said in a statement to CNET. "We'll miss her at Google X and are excited to see what the future holds for her in Washington."
Smith's appointment is also notable because of the relatively few women in tech. Although women make up half the US workforce, only 25 percent of jobs in technical or computing fields are held by women. While in 1984, women made up 37 percent of graduates with computer science degrees, that number has declined to 12 percent today.
Last month, Apple chief executive Tim Cook expressed disappointment with the company's employee make-up, which, like other tech companies, is overwhelmingly white and male. Fifty-five percent of Apple's workforce is white and only 30 percent of Apple employees are women. In leadership roles, those numbers become increasingly distorted with 64 percent being white and only 28 percent being women.