Vivek Kundra named America's CIO

President Barack Obama has officially named former Washington, D.C. tech chief Vivek Kundra as the federal government's Chief Information Officer.

President Barack Obama has officially named former Washington, D.C. tech chief Vivek Kundra as the federal government’s CIO.

Kundra, who previously served as the CTO for D.C.'s city government, has received a good deal of acclaim for his work in making that government act more transparently and economically. Among other things, Kundra has slashed the city's IT costs by shifting government e-mail and work applications over to Google Apps and has pushed for more transparency by posting lists on the Web of jobs that government contractors have been hired to perform.

As the federal government’s CIO, Kundra will oversee a $71 billion information technology budget and ensure IT interoperability between government departments. During a conference call this morning, Kundra said that he will be looking at how the government could both improve its technology investments and make more information accessible to citizens through the Internet.

Kundra said that when he took over as CTO of Washington, D.C., he was surprised at how technologically primitive public sector workplaces were compared to their private-sector counterparts.

"The public sector thought they were so special that they wouldn't adopt consumer technologies," said Kundra, who also noted that when he would connect his laptop to a local Starbucks Wi-Fi network then he “had more computing power in my hands at local coffee shop than average teacher or police officer.”

To this end, Kundra said he will examine how private companies and NGOs make decisions about adopting new technologies and will try to apply those processes to government.

In terms of making more government information available to the public, Kundra said the government would soon launch a Web site called data.gov that would serve as a public data feed. Kundra's proposal for the federal data feed site echoes the Data Catalog website he helped establish for Washington, DC to provide the public with information on everything from crime statistics to construction projects to public space permits.

Kundra said that Ronald Reagan's directive to make Global Positioning System technical specifications public and the Human Genome Project's decision to publish the human DNA sequence in the Internet were examples of the benefits of making more government information available to the public.

"There is a lot of data that the federal government has and we need to make sure that all data that's not private and not necessary for national security is available on the Internet," he said.

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