Did you know the US has a Chief Information Officer for the first time?


The United States has a new Chief Information Officer for the first time in history, Vivek Kundra. Mr. Kundra is the former Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia.  During his tenure as CTO he was able to move post city contracts onto YouTube, make Twitter common in his office, and now he hopes to allow drivers to pay parking tickets and renew driver licenses on Facebook! This 35-year-old technology guru has big plans to aggressively change how the federal government uses informational technology.  He is ready to turn our government into a Web 2.0 government, but what does this mean for schools? Kundra is ready to take on his new challenge and has already announced several new initiatives that he hopes will revolutionize our nation.

“How can we leverage the power of technology to make sure the country is moving in the right direction?” asks Kundra during a conference call with journalists on March 5, 2009.  He further stressed that his ambition is to “revolutionize technology in the public sector.” He pointed to cloud-based services used by the private sector for information sharing, such as for photos and videos.  Cloud computing is a style of computing in which resources are provided as a service over the Internet. Users need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure “in the cloud” that supports them.  The concept incorporates infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) as well as Web 2.0 and other recent technology trends.  The goal is to rely on the Internet for satisfying the computing needs of users and not the physical machine.  An example would include Google Apps, which provide common applications online that are accessed from a web browser, while the software and data are stored on the servers.  Using cloud computing doesn’t eliminate the need for hardware and software, but it is shifting from being on-premises to being in the cloud.  All that is needed to create a cloud, is an inexpensive access device such as a computer or even a smart phone with a high-speed connection, a web browser, broadband, and then “poof”, we are all connected.

The truly phenomenal piece to this puzzle for schools and districts across our nation is the ability to provide educational content on inexpensive hardware, which is only governed by the speed of broadband.  It is important to note that if broadband is an issue; President Obama stated during his December 6, 2008 Weekly YouTube address, “As we renew our schools and highways, we’ll also renew our information superhighway. It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online…”

We have a new and forward-thinking individual leading the technology advancements for our nation. Vivek Kundra has even spoken highly of Facebook and sees it as a potential model. Facebook Inc.’s 140 million users have “been able to self-organize on issues, on policy, on problems and create a movement so people can be heard,” said Kundra.  In his role as D.C.’s Chief Technology Officer, Kundra built a reputation as someone willing to push into new directions.   As CTO he created a contest called Apps for Democracy.  The contest invited developers and designers to compete by creating web applications, widgets, Google Maps mash-ups, iPhone apps, Facebook apps, and other digital utilities.  These apps are to provide real-time data from multiple agencies to citizens — a catalyst ensuring agencies operate as more responsive, better performing organizations.  The contest was a huge hit and according to Kundra, “Apps for Democracy produced more savings for the D.C. government than any other initiative.”   The contest resulted in Web and mobile application creation to assist tourist discover Washington D.C. and to help them find parking.

Web 2.0 is quickly becoming more than a catch-phase or fad.  It looks like it is the future and here to stay.  With individuals like Vivek Kundra at the reigns there is no telling where in the Web we will land.

Resources:

White House Official Website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Names-Vivek-Kundra-Chief-Information-Officer

President Obama Names Vivek Kundra Chief Information Officer The New York Times Website, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/05/the-nations-new-chief-information-officer-speaks

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