Kundra said to be Obama's pick for OMB e-gov chief

The District of Columbia's chief technology officer has focused on applications that promote public collaboration, transparency and performance.

The Obama administration plans to announce it has appointed Vivek Kundra, the District of Columbia's chief technology officer to take the top information technology post in the federal government, according to a source.

Kundra, who has deployed advanced applications to improve the performance of public services during his nearly two years as CTO for the District, will replace Karen Evans as administrator for e-government and information technology in the Office of Management and Budget. The position effectively serves as the federal government's chief information officer. The administration could announce Kundra's appointment as soon as Thursday.

Kundra could not be reached, and a spokesman for Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty declined to comment.

Kundra's name has been linked to a top IT job in the Obama administration for months, though most of the discussion has focused on the still-open chief technology officer position. During the campaign, Obama said the CTO would report directly to him, indicating the position would have authority. But sources say the position now looks like it may report to the head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, a relatively obscure group in the White House.

"It makes sense," said a source who asked not to be identified. "[Kundra's] name has surfaced for the CTO position, but once everybody got a sense for where the CTO was going to be [within the administration], and that it was just a bully pulpit rather than a position with clout, [the IT] role was probably more appealing."

Kundra has drawn attention for his innovative approach to managing the District's IT investments, including his use of a stock portfolio approach for tracking projects and his interest in encouraging public involvement in government -- an Obama campaign promise, as well. He developed the AppsForDemocracy contest, which challenged citizens to come up with new ways of using technology to make government information widely available.

Prior to joining D.C. government, Kundra served as assistant secretary of commerce and technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia under Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine. He also served as director of infrastructure technology for Arlington County in Virginia.

Kundra also worked as vice president of marketing for Evincible Software, which provided electronic signatures and identity management for financial services companies and the Defense Department. In addition, he served on the adjunct faculty at the University of Maryland, where he received a bachelor degree in psychology and a master's in information technology.

As administrator of e-government, Kundra will work with the Chief Information Officers Council to formulate policy and help agencies manage IT investments. He could bring a different approach to technology than his predecessor. IT professionals in government and those working for contractors say Evans, who began her post as e-gov chief under the Bush administration in 2003, say she managed information technology as a commodity rather than a strategic asset. Kundra, conversely, brings a more activist approach that emphasizes using the latest technology such as Google applications to affect directly government performance.

One change Kundra may take on immediately is cloud computing, a process that stores all applications on remote servers instead of on laptop and desktop computers as a means to make networks more efficient. "The cloud will do for government what the Internet did in the '90s," Kundra told Nextgov in a November interview. "It's a fundamental change to the way our government operates by moving to the cloud. Rather than owning the infrastructure, we can save millions."

Teresa Bozzelli, managing director and chief operating officer for the technology research firm Government Insight, which worked with the Obama IT transition team, agreed that a shift to cloud computing would be beneficial for federal agencies.

"The government owning everything as opposed to buying infrastructure as a service really needs to change," Bozzelli said. "In the new model, you only buy what you use. The government is paying for no downtime. It's both a short-term approach for cost savings and a long-term strategy for bringing in advantageous technology upgrades more quickly."

Kundra also is a strong proponent of giving the public access to government data. "Why does the government keep information secret?" he rhetorically asked during an interview with Nextgov. "Why not put it all out in the government domain?" [Since arriving in Washington], I've made all the government databases public. Every 311 call, every abandoned automobile, who has responded, etc. It provides high-level oversight of the daily tasks of government."