From ELC: Conference ends with CIO sound off

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- The Executive Leadership Conference ended today with a panel of agency chief information officers sounding off on a variety of topics. Deputy Defense Department CIO Dave Wennergren led the discussion, punctuated with frequent audience questions.

Molly O'Neill, EPA assistant administrator and CIO, said agencies shouldn't push Web 2.0 tools for information sharing when there is no specific need for them. However, she said, they are often exactly what's called for.

"I think it holds huge promise," she said of Web 2.0 technology. "A lot of people think I'm pushing Web 2.0 tools. I think when there's a business case, we need to push those things."

Web 2.0 and other collaborative technologies challenge old ways of thinking, Wennergren said. "It's a different way of doing business," he said. "And it's a move away from the information systems of our past" and into a world of cloud computing and other new ideas.

Robert Carey, Navy CIO, said most decision-makers are focused less on the tools than their effectiveness. "In my experiences, technology nearly always works," so touting the tech isn't useful. "When you apply it to a problem, that's when the rub comes," he said.

The panelists agreed that privacy has become ingrained into agency thinking. Most solicitations for electronic records systems, especially in health care application, specify that privacy and security are essential.

"It's important that Congress cares about security and transparency," Wennergren said. "That helps."

"Most of the politically savvy people who come into public service size up privacy pretty quickly as a place where stellar performance will gather little in the way of accolades," O'Neill said. But they also recognize that the consequences of not adhering to good standards can be disastrous, she said.

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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