Vivek Kundra Named First Fed CIO

By Laton McCartney


President Barack Obama announced the selection of Vivek Kundra, 34, as the first Federal Chief Information Officer, a position Obama pledged to create during his campaign.


"Vivek Kundra will bring a depth of experience in the technology arena and a commitment to lowering the cost of government operations to this position," President Obama said in a press release.


"I have directed him to work to ensure that we are using the spirit of American innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and lower the cost of government operations. As Chief Information Officer, he will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible."


Formerly the chief technology officer for the District of Columbia, the India-born Kundra will be expected to oversee expanded uses of cutting-edge technology. He will have responsibility for federal technology spending as well as information sharing between agencies and ensuring greater public access to government information. In addition, as President Obama noted in his press release, Kundra will be charged with finding ways to "lower the cost of government operations" through technology.


In less than two years as DC's CTO, Kundra has moved to post city contracts on YouTube and to make Twitter use common in his office and others. He hopes to allow drivers to pay parking tickets or renew their driver's licenses on Facebook.


Kundra will also be the Office of Management and Budget's administrator for e-government and information technology, Kundra said in a teleconference with reporters after the President’s announcement.


The new Federal CIO said he plans to build on innovations from the previous administration but wants to move beyond e-government. As federal CIO, he will be focused on operations and effectively spending the $71 billion federal IT budget.


"I'm driving a transparency and open government agenda to make sure that the public has access to information and to government, and we rethink how the government interacts with the public in an information economy,” Kundra said. That view includes developing "an innovative path," whether it’s borrowing from the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and applying them to the federal government and "changing the velocity at which we adopt new technologies."


Kundra also shares responsibility for furthering the President's goal of making the government more transparent. "One of the things we plan to embark on is launching, (a new site), which would democratize data and give data back to the public. The challenge—whether it's citizens, NGOs, (or) the private sector—is to help us think through how we address some of the toughest problems in the public sector," he said. would publish data feeds of a vast array of data, he stated.

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