Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

David Talbot

A View from David Talbot

Obama's New CIO Will Bring Web Apps to the White House

Vivek Kundra will be charged with overhauling creaky federal IT.

  • March 5, 2009

President Obama is still looking for a national chief technology officer to help forge U.S. technology policy, but today he did something that could have even more impact, at least in the short run. He announced the appointment of a chief information officer to help drag the federal government’s vast and ossified computer infrastructure into the Facebook age.

Obama’s pick is Vivek Kundra, 34, who is currently chief technology officer for the District of Columbia. He will be expected to expand uses of cutting-edge technology, but also to make sane investments. Judging by his track record, citizens might soon see some concrete changes: new ways to access public information, new online tools for communicating with federal agencies, and access to new databases. One way to reform federal IT would be more effective information sharing between agencies (did anyone say CIA and FBI?). The federal government certainly has a sorry history of white-elephant IT upgrades, including a bungled FBI computer overhaul well described in this Washington Post story of a couple of years ago.

Kundra’s plans already include a data.gov website to provide the public with vast amounts of searchable government information. All this will be a vast leap in scale from the current offerings of his DC website, which has been an interesting test bed for making local government more responsive and transparent. There, you can do things like download maps of Wi-Fi access spots and view city contracts. He also launched an apps for democracy contest that resulted in residents suggesting Web and phone applications that would do things like provide better access to crime reports. He’s even been pushing to allow people to pay their parking tickets via Facebook. In a statement, Obama said, “I have directed him to work to ensure that we are using the spirit of American innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and lower the cost of government operations.”

Cut off? Read unlimited articles today.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.