April 8, 2009

Kundra brings promise to CIO role

If you follow the connection between technology and transparency, you've probably heard about Vivek Kundra. He is the former Chief Technology Officer for D.C. and current Chief Information Officer for the entire nation.

He is also a strong proponent of opening up government in new and exciting ways.

Government Computer News has an interesting article about him that sheds some light on how Kundra plans to open up government so it is accessible, transparent and advanced.

Kundra seems the most excited about "cloud computing" and open government data.

Cloud computing is using existing services instead of "re-inventing the wheel". Examples include using YouTube to host government videos or flickr to host images. Using what already exists is extremely cost-effective. As Kundra said, "'Government shouldn't be spending a ton of money setting up stuff,' when less-expensive alternatives exist."

In addition to cloud computing, Kundra is also focused on open government data. As I've mentioned before, open data is a cornerstone of a transparent government.

Using the example of what happened after the Department of Defense opened up its GPS coordinates, Kundra believes new industries could be born once all of the data locked inside government databases is open to the public.

Although this sounds hopeful, there are reasons to temper expectations. A week after being announced as CIO, Kundra's D.C. office was raided in connection with a bribery investigation. He was never a target of the investigation, but it definitely left a foul taste in the mouth of his supporters.

There are also many security issues that must be addressed when dealing with potentially private information. While a lot of the data the government collects is general in nature, all steps must be taken to avoid releasing data that contains personally identifiable information.

Let's hope Kundra can deliver on his promises of openness and transparency. We will be watching.