Barack Obama appoints new CIO for Web 2.0 government

Barack Obama, US president, has appointed a new chief information officer who has already said he will act aggressively to change the federal government's use of IT.

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Barack Obama, US president, has appointed a new chief information officer who has already said he will act aggressively to change the federal government's use of IT.

Vivek Kundra, the new federal CIO and currently District of Columbia's chief technology officer, said he will adopt consumer technology and ensure the government data is open and accessible.

Kundra also wants to use technology such as cloud computing to attack the government's culture of big-contract boondoggles and its hiring of contractors who end up "on the payroll indefinitely".

Kundra, in a conference call Thursday with reporters shortly after President Barack Obama named him as federal CIO said one of his first projects is to create a data.gov Web site to "democratize" the federal government's vast information treasures by making them accessible in open formats and in feeds that can be used by application developers.

"How can we leverage the power of technology to make sure the country is moving in the right direction?" asked Kundra, stressing that his ambition is to "revolutionize technology in the public sector."

Kundra was expansive about his tech goals and critical of the government's contracting record for IT projects that "frankly haven't performed well," saying there have been few consequences for failures.

While he outlined a tough approach with contractors, Kundra also wants to move the government away from its dependence on big IT contracts.

He pointed to cloud-based services used by the private sector to quickly create and provision development platforms, as well as for information sharing, such as for photos and videos. "Yet, you look across the federal government, and we don't have a single platform that allows you do that," he said.

When it comes to information sharing and finding new ways of engaging the public, Kundra spoke highly of Facebook and sees it as a potential model. Facebook Inc.'s 140 million users have "been able to self-organize on issues, on policy, on problems and create a movement so people can be heard," said Kundra.

"We have the ability to run an open, transparent, participatory and collaborative government."

By making federal data accessible, Kundra wants to enable developers to build applications "in a context-rich model" that can help the government and private sector as well develop new products -- and even new kinds of applications that might be used on smartphones.

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