Kundra calls for context-driven government

The Obama administration wants a “context-driven government” with services accessible through people's regular daily activities that involve information technology, according to the administration’s top IT officer.

The government needs to re-examine how to use technology to interact with the public and provide services most useful to people, Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, said April 25 at a breakfast hosted by the Northern Virginia Technology Council and sponsored by 1105 Government Information Group.

Kundra said the context-driven government could be powered by making the large amounts of data that agencies have available for the public to use. He calls that process “democratizing” data.

“We need to rethink how we reach the American people and ask the question: How do we engage the American people and provide services in their daily digital lives?” Kundra said. “We’re looking forward to tapping into the ingenuity of the American people to ensure that we have a government that’s not only responsive, but that finds the innovative path to deliver services that could never be delivered before and that allows us to leap-frog and leverage new technologies that exist.”

Kundra cited the Human Genome Project and the Global Positioning System technologies as examples of how government data has led to innovation.

“We need to move toward a new vision of service delivery and recognize that we don’t necessarily need to spend taxpayer dollars on continuing to invest in infrastructure that’s government-centric only,” he added. “We need to start thinking about the solutions from the eyes of the public that we serve, rather than through the eyes of public servants that want to make it easy for themselves to deploy solutions.”

Kundra also repeated comments he made earlier that week about the need to improve the federal procurement process by enhancing efficiency and accountability. He said the government hasn’t been doing a good job of defining its requirements, and in some cases, the private sector has not been held accountable for failures in massive IT projects.

“In this economy, we cannot afford to squander away billions of dollars in investments that don’t yield results,” he said. “At the same time, the government also needs to look inward and say: 'Why is it that we’re not making the tough choices? Why is it that we’re not defining the requirements properly and not holding officials accountable when they horribly plan initiatives?' ”

Kundra also said the administration would increase "the frequency at which we monitor these investments” and “not just in terms of one or two metrics, but across the board and ask the deeper question: What is this really driving toward in terms of performance?”

However, Kundra said with the government's four million employees, 10,000-plus IT systems and more than 24,000 Web sites, complete transformation of federal IT wouldn’t come overnight.

“We recognize the challenge that we face, and we know it’s not going to happen overnight, but we need to change the trajectory we are on to ensure that we’re embracing technology to drive innovation, to create a more open and transparent government, to ensure that we’re lowering the cost of government operations and also we need to make sure that the investments we’re making in information technology yield the results that were promised up front,” he said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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