Former Federal CIO Kundra Recounts Government IT Transformation


When Vivek Kundra arrived at his job as Federal CIO after being named to the post by President Barack Obama on March 5, 2009, he was greeted with some bad news.

“My first day at work I was told there were $27 billion in projects years behind schedule and we were hundreds of millions of dollars over budget,” Kundra told about 700 attendees Tuesday in a keynote speech at Ingram Micro's Cloud Summit 2012 in Scottsdale, Ariz. “This was an IT model that was broken in terms of providing services.”

Kundra went on to describe a series of horror stories of unproductive IT projects, including a billion-dollar U.S. Justice Department case management system that didn’t work; a State Department cybersecurity study filed away and never used; 2,000 data centers with more than 25 percent unused capacity; and a culture that produced millions of government forms that took citizens hours to file out.

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By the time Kundra had left office in August 2011, he had started several initiatives he hopes will begin to transform the use of government technology. Kundra is now executive vice president of emerging markets for Salesforce.com.

Kundra said as Federal CIO he initiated a cloud computing portal called Apps.gov where agencies can contract for services on-demand rather than through long-term, wasteful hardware projects.

“The shift to the cloud allowed government for the first time to get vendors out of five to ten-year contracts,” Kundra said. “Every CIO was spending more time on infrastructure and procurement than on services.”

To open government to innovation and to encourage more participatory democracy, Kundra started Data.gov, a Web site for providing open access to government data. The use of such data has unlocked innovation to provide numerous innovations, including mobile apps which deliver health care applications, services drawn from satellite data, and more.

Kundra also launched a Federal IT Dashboard, which lets users access government IT projects in such terms as cost and schedule.

For the future, Kundra said open, social, cloud-based, mobile and on-demand technologies will continue to drive government innovation.

“Cloud computing is a one-way street,” Kundra said. “The deeper question is what is the transformation that will be driven on top of that? Look at Facebook. They have 900 million users. Look at Twitter, with 200 million users. This is a time of great opportunity.”