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First federal CIO wants to 'democratize' U.S. government data

By Patrick Thibodeau
March 9, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The U.S. Government's first CIO, Vivek Kundra, is looking to change the way federal agencies use IT by adopting consumer technologies and finding new ways to make government data open and accessible.

Kundra, the District of Columbia's CTO, was appointed to the newly created post last week by President Barack Obama.

Obama had announced early in his campaign that he would name a chief technology officer, but the new CIO post was a bit of a surprise. The administration still plans to hire a CTO.

In a conference call with reporters, Kundra said he plans to create a Web site called that would "democratize" the federal government's vast information resources, making them accessible in open formats and in feeds for developers.

He also said he hopes to use emerging technologies like cloud computing to cut the need for expensive contractors who often end up "on the payroll indefinitely."

As the District of Columbia's CTO, Kundra built a reputation for pushing technology in new directions. For example, the district now offers some 240 online feeds that provide residents and businesses with a wide range of municipal data, such as building permits and other reports.

Technology industry leaders like Scott McNealy, chairman of Sun Microsystems Inc., have in recent weeks been urging White House officials to appoint a CIO.

As McNealy McNealy recently told Computerworld, IT spending by the federal government dwarfs the IT budgets of the largest companies.

This version of this story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

Read more about Government IT in Computerworld's Government IT Topic Center.

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