January 5, 2009 By Emma Newcombe
Vivek Kundra does not take a conventional approach to government. A recent Washington Post article described some of Kundra's innovative tools for improving government technology, from measuring a project's success on a "happiness level" to utilizing Wikipedia and Twitter in his department. The chief technology officer (CTO) of Washington, D.C., has even piqued the interest of President-elect Barack Obama's team, recently becoming a tech policy adviser to the administration. Kundra has also been noted as a possible candidate for federal CTO, a position Obama plans to create.
Always working on new and innovative ways to improve the district's use of technology, Kundra is constantly on the go. Working from before sunrise to after dark, he is regularly found rushing from one meeting to the next, using his BlackBerry and iPhone in between appointments. According to The Washington Post, "he speaks quickly and decisively," and handles technology projects in the same way. If a project is not successful, he will readily cancel it and direct the money elsewhere.
Kundra's focus on saving money and creating economical solutions may stem in part from his upbringing. Born in India, and living in Tanzania until he moved to Gaithersburg, Md., at age 11, Kundra witnessed poverty and starvation, becoming exposed to the need for frugality at a young age.
Video: Washington, D.C.'s Vivek Kundra describes how the city uses Web video to improve procurement.
Not all the district bureaucracy has embraced all of Kundra's programs, however. Some, for example, do not want to make city data such as crime rates and health care available to everyone. Yet the enthusiastic CTO has learned how to slow down in order to prevent this dissatisfaction, implementing a project one agency at a time before expanding it.
Despite reactions from some bureaucracy, Kundra continues to work around the clock, pushing for innovative change and economical solutions. As Aneesh Chopra, Virginia's secretary of technology, told The Washington Post, "He exhibits a passion one would expect when you really love what you're doing."
To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.
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