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Federal CIO Kundra Talks IT Strategy

Nine months into the job, Vivek Kundra discusses IT initiatives, the path ahead, and challenges in driving the Obama Administration's 'open government' agenda.
InformationWeek: What are the plans for the Apps.gov cloud computing portal?

Kundra: The exciting thing is that you've got not just the larger companies participating, but a lot of start-ups in the cloud space. You're going to be able to go online, procure immediately, and provision those services. Second is, what about all the code and the innovation that we have. I had the CIO of the Netherlands come visit because they're going to deploy the same dashboard, and they want take the IT Dashboard code and customize it for the Netherlands. One of the things we're going to be doing on Apps.gov is actually sharing code. Why not share applications that serve public interests to states, local government. Agencies across the board could take that code and create their own derivatives, and very much like the open source movement, better it over time.

InformationWeek: You're saying we'll see code-sharing for the public sector?

Kundra: Absolutely. You'll see a number of apps that we'll put out. So you'll have apps you can buy, apps that are available in the consumer space that we can leverage effectively with service agreements, apps that are free like Facebook and YouTube and so forth, and you'll see apps that are created where taxpayers have already paid for those apps. Why do they need to continue making those investments? What we need to do is take it to the next level.

InformationWeek: How do you get people to move to the cloud?

Kundra: One, you've got to make sure that as these apps are deployed, they're deployed with the federal government, or the enterprise, in mind. Two, we want to make sure that we have addressed questions around security, portability and interoperability. From an execution perspective, it comes down to phase two and three of the IT Dashboard, which is to evaluate investments and to say, why do you have 10 of these systems, how do you divest or consolidate these investments. That's what we're going to be seeing in the second year—a move towards using the data that's been generated at a frequency that will actually give us the intelligence that we need to make those types of decisions and shift in capital.

InformationWeek: So what will the cloud computing strategy look like?

Kundra: You're going to see clouds in the [commercial] space that we procure from vendors. I've got new groups focused on security, portability, and interoperability. We're going to have multiple iterations, and they're going to have to interoperate. Within the federal government, if you look at Nebula as a perfect example, and DISA, you're going to end up with an environment where you have civilian-based, intelligence-based, and defense-based clouds, but from a platform perspective, we're trying to figure out the services that are the lowest common denominator. How do we provision and provide them with one center of gravity?

InformationWeek: How should we judge your job performance?

Kundra: I think against the President's initiatives and what are we doing to make sure we tap into the ingenuity of the American people. It comes down to making sure we're buying technology faster, smarter and at a lower cost and that the experience the American people have when they interact with their government is fundamentally different. Ultimately, it comes down to our interactions with the federal government.

Read InformationWeek's first-ever analysis of top CIOs in federal, state, and local government, and how they're embracing new expectations. Download the report here (registration required).