I Like Vivek Kundra's Open Government Style

Ann All

I know federal CIO Vivek Kundra has both fans and detractors. I've decided I like Kundra's style, although I am still reserving judgment on the substance.


Unlike many CIOs, in the government or elsewhere, Kundra is good at discussing technology in terms people can understand and making it clear how technology can improve their lives. In his blog post about Data.gov and the broader Open Government Initiative, for instance, he offers several examples of how more transparent government data from agencies like Department of Agriculture, Department of Education and Department of Labor might help people make better choices.


He congratulates the United Kingdom for launching its own version of Data.gov, and says similar sites in U.S. cities and states including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, the State of Utah, the State of Michigan, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts point to "a nationwide movement to unlock public data." (There are local sites in the UK and Canada, too.) He writes:

All of these sites are dedicated to breaking down longstanding barriers between governments and the people they serve -- facilitating collaboration and transforming dry data into tools that can improve people's lives.

Kundra also reiterates the broader idea of tapping constituents and other "outsiders" for ideas -- a trend applied with varying degrees of success by private companies. Earlier this month, the feds held a summit with representatives of more than 50 companies to pick their brains on ways to use technology to boost government productivity and improve service. Kundra writes:

We ... look forward to working with the international community to ensure that people across the world are actively engaged in helping find the most innovative paths to solve some of the toughest problems we face. Moreover, we are pleased to see that other governments share the Administration's philosophy that data availability will help change how government operates and empower citizens to participate in making government services more effective, accessible, and transparent.

Will we see more of this? Increased transparency is one of five predictions for government IT in an Intelligent Enterprise article, though as the article points out it "won't always be easy." Government agencies, after all, tend to have pretty secretive cultures. (Just like many of their private-sector counterparts.)


The article predicts USASpending.gov and Data.gov will get revamps, making it easier for the public to find and use information. (And revamps are definitely in order, according to BI analyst Seth Grimes and other critics who say these government sites are riddled with errors and don't meet government usability requirements for persons with disabilities.)


It also says government agencies will begin to make more effective use of social media, a trend IT Business Edge blogger Lora Bentley has covered. Another data-transparency trend mentioned in the article is the use of dashboards as a tool to drive change in government agencies.


What will be really interesting is to see if government efforts at transparency will prompt similar efforts among its contractors. (Call it the Walmart effect.)

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jan 22, 2010 6:01 PM Albert Gibson Albert Gibson  says:

Vivek Kundra was one of the designers of the disastrous Recovery.gov web site, which allowed for fraudulent Congressional districts and fake ZIP codes to be used to track government spending.

Kundra shouldn't be in charge of anything.  He should be derided for shoddy work and bounced out of the industry.  But that's Obama for you, always picking the absolute worst person possible for any job.  What a disaster.


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