Kundra: Government must tap into Web 2.0's potential

The federal CIO believes it will bring cost-savings, partnerships with citizens

The federal government must tap the dynamic functionality of Web 2.0 technology if it is to capture the potential savings from a growing list of low-cost software applications and processing capabilities, federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, told an industry group today.

Kundra, speaking at the American Council of Technology and Industry Advisory Council's Management of Change Conference in Norfolk, Va., also stressed the importance of using technology not only to serve citizens, but to tap their ideas for helping to tackle government issues.

“We’ve got to recognize that we can’t treat the American people as subjects but as a co-creator of ideas,” Kundra said. “We need to tap into the vast amounts of knowledge … in communities across the country. The federal government doesn’t have a monopoly on the best ideas,” he said.

Kundra contrasted the potential for dynamic data feeds with the government’s technology initiatives of the past decade. Many of those initiatives, he said, attempted to break down the vertical technology silos that evolved across government but ultimately resulted in horizontal, cross-agency silos, such as the Lines of Business initiatives that began in 2004.

Although that effort helped foster a broader movement toward federal enterprise architecture, “the approach remained focused on driving down transaction costs in management and support functions,” Kundra said, rather than “focusing on mission-critical activities.”

“We need to drive towards simplicity,” he said, while at the same time looking at performance outcomes.

Kundra also stressed the need to look at technology as an ecosystem, particularly in dealing with cybersecurity concerns.

He noted that the government’s cybersecurity spending has grown annually from $4.2 billion in fiscal 2004 to $7.3 billion in fiscal 2009, or about 73 percent, yet the average government IT security grade, as measured by Federal Information Security Management Act standards, has remained unchanged, at a C, over that period.

“We need a fundamentally different approach,” in solving that problem, Kundra said. That will require a new level of cooperation with the private sector in developing more secure software, he said. But it also will require holding officials accountable, he said.

Kundra highlighted a new series of dashboards his office is rolling out that will attempt to show in real time -- and historically -- how agency IT investments are performing in terms of cost and schedule, rather than reporting that information in quarterly or annual reviews.

“We need to make everything as transparent as possible,” he said, so that the government can channel investment dollars where they can do the most good, and avoid IT failures such the Census Bureau’s decision to revert to a partially paper process after a $600 million investment in handheld units proved unworkable.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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