Vivek Kundra, the first federal CIO, offers some parting thoughts on public service.
Vivek Kundra, the former federal CIO, wrote that he transformed the government’s “image of red tape, long lines, and cold, distant bureaucracies” through real-time analytics and American ingenuity.
Stepping into the job, Kundra immediately saw a major technology gap in the government compared with the private sector. Children could find more statistics about their favorite baseball players easier than the billions of dollars the government spends each year, he wrote in a paper published for the Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy.
“Closing this gap is the key to making government work better for the American people — the ultimate goal,” he wrote in the article Aug. 15, titled, “Reflections on Public Service.”
Kundra left his position as the first federal CIO in August to become a fellow at the center.
He dealt with major IT projects that had exceeded the initial cost estimates and had fallen behind the schedule. What's more, the projects that actually were completed were already obsolete in the fast-changing IT world, he wrote.
Kundra took what he had learned as Virginia’s assistant secretary of commerce and technology and built a real-time database for the federal government. He began meeting with IT officials across government in TechStat sessions. He also pushed agencies to cloud computing to fix the problems with redundant and old infrastructure. His aim was a nimble and efficient organization.
As more of the federal government’s information went online, Kundra said he developed an overarching legislative proposal regarding cybersecurity. The proposal would focus on protecting personal data, threats to power grids, and also securing federal network systems.
Kundra wrote that he came to the CIO position in a world where IT is everywhere and citizens are expecting the government to keep pace with industry in being easy to use and up to date.
Kundra said he changed the status quo, but he also warned that the IT advances can still regress.
“Left alone, things tend to move from order to disorder — and the hard work this administration has done to reform federal IT could fall back unless we keep our shoulder to the wheel,” he wrote.