New federal CIO Vivek Kundra wants a Web 2.0 government

Mini-profile: He likes Facebook's approach, cloud computing, dislikes proprietary tech, big IT contracts

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"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. To illustrate the potential, he cited the work of the National Institutes of Health Human Genome Project, which identified genes in human DNA. Its research, available online, helped spur the creation of new drugs, he said. However, Kundra also noted that achieving this vision will take considerable work.

Kundra, who before this appointment served as chief technology officer of the District of Columbia, previously held a technology post with the commonwealth of Virginia. He does not have a long résumé and will likely face daunting challenges trying to steer a technology direction for federal agencies that are now spending about $71 billion per year on technology.

In his role as D.C.'s CTO, Kundra built a reputation as someone willing to push into new directions. The district has been aggressive in making data available to the public, and it now offers some 240 feeds providing a range of data from the local government, including crime reports and building permits. The data has been used by local bloggers to help provide neighborhood information, as well as by commercial developers.

To encourage the use of government information, Kundra created a contest called Apps for Democracy last year that invited developers to come up with innovative ways to use the feeds.

Peter Corbett, the CEO of iStrategyLabs, a Washington-based marketing and development firm, worked with Kundra to develop the Apps for Democracy contest. Corbett said Kundra told him that he wanted to move away from a model of hiring "an expensive government contractor" to build technologies based on the feeds and instead try to "engage the talented citizens of not only in the D.C. area but nationally and internationally."

The contest resulted in Web and mobile applications used to help people find parking and tourists explore the city, among others.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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