Vivek Kundra’s talk at the NVTC: Democratizing Data and Measuring Performance

I attended Vivek Kundra’s talk at an NVTC break this past Saturday, April 25th. Vivek challenged the audience and the federal government to rethink how to reach the public in their ‘daily digital life’ and to find innovative paths to deliver services. He underlined the importance of the federal government to attract the best ‘human capital’ and ,in response to a question, praised the innovation and hard work he has found in working with federal employees. He repeatedly emphasized striking a balance between innovation and security as we more forward. Vivek cited the example of a TSA employee being told by the IT staff that it would cost $70,000 to create a blog when anyone else in the world could do it for free.

The federal CIO emphasized 3 examples where making data open and ubiquitously available were huge successes. The human genome project, GPS and NOAA weather information. These really are fantastic examples of digital data having an impact on people’s lives. All 3 have meant significant changes in the everyday lives of Americans from new genetic tests, to satellite navigation via cell phones, to an umbrella which tells the owner when to take it outside.

Vivek mentioned that he would be working closely with the new federal CTO and that the emphasis of the CIO would be on the use of technology within the government and the CTO would be more outward facing with regard to technology policy.

I thought one of the more applicable concepts which Vivek put forward was that more care should be taken to measure the progress of projects while underway, rather than when the project or a phase would be scheduled for completion.

Vivek fielded about a dozen or so questions and I thought one of the more interesting ones contained a comment that it is sometimes more important to implement small steps than create large plans, as large plans sometimes become so large that their implementation becomes more and more delayed.

Anyway that was the news from the weekend.

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Good to hear it from someone on the ground. Sounds like he’s making the rounds giving a similar speech. Good stuff.