May 26, 2009

Interview with Federal CIO Vivek Kundra

NextGov has an interesting interview with Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra on his plans for making the federal level infrastructure more transparent and open.

Nextgov: What was your response to the FBI investigation at your old office with the District of Columbia government and to being put on leave and then reinstated within a matter of days?

Kundra: Mayor Adrian Fenty and I have been very committed to transparency and open government. [The platform] the mayor ran on talked about making sure that the government was open and transparent. That means ensuring we uncover things people may not want to see, but is in the interest of district residents. When you move forward with transparency, you find things you may not otherwise, but it's good to find them early rather than later. (Emphasis mine)

He also seems to understand the limits of government when it comes to innovation:

Kundra: We recognize the power of tapping into the ingenuity of the American people and recognize that government doesn't have a monopoly on the best ideas or always have the best idea on finding an innovative path to solving the toughest problems the country faces. By democratizing data and making it available to the public and private sector ... we can tap into that ingenuity.

Finally, he wishes for better oversight on "IT investments to cut back on waste and cost and schedule overruns."

Kundra: ... Here we are in 2009 having a similar conversation around the billions invested in IT. Why aren't those investments producing the dividends that should be expected? We've been working closely with [Delaware Senator Tom] Carper's staff on the bill itself, since we have a common interest: making sure taxpayer dollars are spent well and the technology we're investing in actually produces results and creates the outcomes we set out for.

Kudos to Kundra for defending transparency even when it had the ability to bring down his nomination, realizing the limits of government when it comes to technology, and supporting more oversight when it comes to Information Technology procurements and deployments.

Let's hope the recent launch of data.gov is the first step of many Kundra takes to bring the United States federal government into the 21st century.