Federal CIO Vivek Kundra Outlines Priorities - InformationWeek

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3/5/2009
02:22 PM
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Federal CIO Vivek Kundra Outlines Priorities

Fresh from his appointment by President Obama, Kundra stressed the need to lower costs and increase accountability as he wrestles to streamline the $71-billion in annual federal IT spending.

Vivek Kundra has outlined his priorities and his role as the new federal CIO.

Kundra's statements during his first news conference Thursday indicated that his focus will be very much in line with what President Barack Obama described in his vision for a CTO but the two roles are separate.

"A CTO will be named in due time by the President," Kundra said.

As CIO, Kundra will take the place of Karen Evans, former e-government leader for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and have an extremely broad set of responsibilities. He said he would scrutinize the $71 billion that the federal government spends on technology each year and make sure that it is managed effectively. He will also make sure those investments increase public access to government information, improve citizen participation, and help the public sector adopt technology at least as fast as the private sector, he said.

While leaning toward openness, Kundra will help coordinate efforts within the federal government to promote interoperability and information sharing, enhance security, guard privacy, leverage existing technology for maximum efficiency, and promote technology as a tool for solving pressing problems.

Specifically, he mentioned the two wars the United States is engaged in, the economy, and health care as issues where technology can make a real difference. He pointed out the National Institutes of Health -- which coordinated a global effort to share data on the human genome, encouraging the development of about 500 drugs -- as an example of how government's use of technology can promote problem-solving.

A Web site, Data.gov, will help accomplish that by providing as much data as possible to the public for the widest variety of uses and suggestions, Kundra said. In order to support initiatives like Data.gov, which encourage massive public participation and transparency, the government must and will go through a major transformation, he added.

At the same time, Kundra stressed the need to lower costs and increase accountability through a variety of means, including getting tough on contractors who do not deliver and getting rid of them. He will also avoid the proliferation of silos by encouraging individual agencies to consider greater context, like information-sharing abilities, before investing taxpayer dollars, he said.

"The federal government is the largest buyer of technology in the world," Kundra said, promising to review spending "line item by line item to ensure that the money is spent effectively."

Recovery.org and individual state Web sites will provide accountability down to the subcontractor level for localities, he said.

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