Vivek Kundra at FOSE on Transforming Government

Vivek Kundra is the newly appointed Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the federal government. He is the first federal CIO ever and previously served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the District of Columbia. He spoke this morning at FOSE, the major government technology tradeshow in Washington, DC.

I wanted to write up my notes before they got overtaken by events. Kundra spoke briefly, a little more than a half-hour and, to me, at least, he seemed distracted. I’d never heard him speak before but he seemed to be rushing through his presentation, almost by rote. His main points were:

  1. The IT Revolution is on a scale comparable to the Industrial Revolution. It will expand opportunities for mankind.
  2. The federal government can lead in technology. After all, the government sent a man to the moon, created the Internet and unlocked the human genome. Government needs to embrace a different self-image. It can be innovative and creative.
  3. If you want to know where he wants to take government, check out recovery.gov It is a model for the type of transparency and citizen participation that he would like to see emulated across government. Another model is the Human Genome Project, how they made data available to the public. He wants to do the same on data.gov and wants to bring these principles of openness down to the agency level.
  4. Government will embrace consumer technology. Why should government pay more for big enterprise-level solutions when off the shelf products are cheaper and more flexible? He also wants .gov to be more involved in cloud computing.
  5. The processes of government must be rethought. It’s silly to replicate some 19th Century procedure using 21st Century technology. He’s not interested in process, he’s concerned about outcomes – as are citizens.¬†
  6. Government employees and citizens must be freed from bureaucracy. He’s met countless smart feds interested in Web 2.0 who are stymied by outdated regulations. This must change. Also, data should be made open to the public. We must tap into their ingenuity.

Kundra took a couple questions from the audience (about IT security; he thinks it can coexist with innovation) before departing.

He might have been distracted by the FBI raid on the DC CTO’s office. This is really unfortunate. ¬†Those in government who oppose transparency, consumer tech and citizen involvement will all use this as reason to delay and fight his efforts. They’ll say, “This is why we shouldn’t loosen regulations. Experimentation inevitably leads to malfeasance.”

I think malfeasance exists no matter what system is in place; people are way more creative than government rules. Additionally, by making government more transparent, more open to public review, we lessen the prospect of such fraud. If every government employee knew that they were doing their work in public, and subject to public accountability, I think there would be less fraud, waste and abuse.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is the author of The Swamp, a funny new novel that mocks the city America has come to hate.

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