office tech tools (arjuno/

Don't forget: Tech is only a tool

Governments should think more strategically about the technology solutions they implement, according Rob Cook, commissioner of the Technology Transformation Service at the General Services Administration.

The former Pixar executive told the audience at a March 28 FedScoop event that he learned the benefits of technology in his time with the creators of Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.

The tech wasn’t interesting or important on its own, he said. “It's something that people only cared about because of what it enabled [them] to do.”

Cook said he came to this realization when he was showing his mother an algorithm Pixar used to make shadows within animations. “Her eyes are glazing over,” he remembered.

“But then I showed her the little film that John Lasseter made about a lamp that used the shadow algorithm,” he said, “and she was laughing and crying.”  The technology didn’t seem valuable to her, but how it was used made a big impression.

He said government must remember that technology is serving a purpose. Government knows what problems have to be solved, the technology experts know what tools and platforms might help, and the two need to work together.

Cook mentioned the technology projects that he thought were thoughtfully done: and

“There are a few things where it makes sense to have a common platform across government,” he said. It doesn’t make sense for every agency to develop its own authentication technology and its own cloud platform.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.

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