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Kundra Outlines Open Government Progress

The federal CIO said the government is already seeing performance improvements from the Obama administration's transparency plan.
While the idea of open government is still an abstract one to many, the Obama administration is already seeing real results from its efforts to be more transparent in its activities, Obama's chief information officer said this week.

In testimony Tuesday before the U.S. subcommittee on federal financial management, government information, federal services, and international security, federal CIO Vivek Kundra attempted to shed light on how the administration's Open Government Initiative is already fostering innovation and improving the performance of the U.S. government.

"Opening our government allows us to draw upon the knowledge of all Americans, not just those inside the beltway of Washington," Kundra said at the hearing, which was specifically held to inform the committee of progress the initiative has made.

Kundra's testimony came at an appropriate time -- on the day the results of a yearly survey of federal CIOs revealed that they're looking for direction about what open government is and how they should specifically support it within their agencies.

The survey, released by TechAmerica and Grant Thornton, said CIOs are seeking more direction and clarity on transparency and, lacking that, have been creating their own definition and policies for implementing it.

Kundra outlined specific progress that's been made since the Obama administration began its transparency efforts.

For example, in the 10 months since the government launched the site, which aggregates performance, budget, and other data from various federal agencies, it has expanded from working with 47 sets of data from different agencies to 169 data sets, he said.

Moreover, third-party developers have been able to use that data to create innovative applications, such as one that allows people to track flight status information at worldwide airports, Kundra said.

He also praised the Department of Veterans Affairs, which saved $54 million in taxpayer money by assessing its IT projects and terminating 12 that were significantly behind schedule or over budget.

The department was only able to do this with the help of the Federal IT Dashboard, another transparency initiative that lets people view information about where the federal government is spending its IT funds, Kundra said.

He said these innovations are just the beginning of what the Obama administration hopes to achieve with its transparency plans.

The ultimate vision, Kundra said, is to allow people "to create and share dashboards" about government performance and share them with each other "in the same way we share YouTube videos."