White House tech guru Vivek Kundra leaving for Harvard
The White House tech guru who spearheaded an administration effort to streamline the federal government’s massive IT infrastructure is leaving for Harvard.
After 2½ years as the first federal chief information officer, Vivek Kundra is leaving in August for a fellowship at Harvard. Kundra, who worked in the Office of Management and Budget, oversees $80 billion in federal information technology projects and led a push for more cloud computing.
In his new endeavor, Kundra will split his time in a joint fellowship between the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
“We look forward to working closely with him on cutting-edge issues where the complexities of cloud computing intersect with law, institutions and data,” Berkman Center Executive Director Urs Gasser said in a news release.
Kundra occupied one of three tech-focused posts that the Obama White House created to overhaul the government’s use of technology.
The others are chief technology officer (Aneesh Chopra) and chief performance officer (Jeffrey Zients). Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel dubbed the trio the “McKinsey guys” because of their previous experience as advisers in both the public and private sectors.
“The work that I dedicated myself to while serving as the federal CIO — in cutting waste, strengthening cybersecurity and building an open and transparent government through technology,” Kundra said in the release, “will also drive my research interests on both the national and international levels at the Shorenstein Center and the Berkman Center at Harvard.”
Kundra spearheaded a number of initiatives to try to make the government’s complex technology systems more efficient and less costly. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who heads the subcommittee that oversees federal IT issues, credited Kundra with saving the government $3 billion in efficiencies.
“His leadership over the past two years in enhancing the federal government’s transparency and technology efforts has been remarkable,” Carper said.
One of his primary accomplishments was introducing “cloud computing” into the government IT lexicon. Kundra has pushed consumer-focused companies such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon to get into the government game.
Those firms are now selling cloud services, which store information for multiple agencies on large corporate-run servers, instead of each federal agency having to run its own equipment.
Consolidating such data centers will save money and help the government run more efficiently, Kundra has said. In 2009, he introduced the IT Dashboard, a tool that tracks how much the government spends on IT investments.
He also launched Data.gov, a site that makes government data public so that citizen programmers can develop software applications — such as an application that shows average hospital emergency room wait times or local health code violations.
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