There's been no shortage of limelight on Washington, D.C., Chief Technology Officer Vivek Kundra, especially since his name was recently mentioned in IT circles as a possible dark horse choice to be President-elect Barack Obama's federal CTO.
But Kundra seems to have his focus squarely on Washington, D.C., as he revealed in a recent conversation with Government Technology that he is in talks to expand the scope of the district's Apps for Democracy. The first-of-its-kind contest awarded $20,000 in prize money in November 2008 to private citizens who built open source "mash-up" computer applications that show publicly released data in a user-friendly manner.
"I just got out of a meeting with a bunch of capitalists [in November 2008], and the next thing I'm planning on doing is creating a competition for startup companies," Kundra said. "What I want to do is articulate the biggest problems that phase the public sector and Washington, D.C., and essentially bring in the smartest people and say, 'Normally I would pay $10 million to solve this problem. But I challenge you to solve this problem for half a million dollars.' [I want to] have the startup entrepreneurs come in and create solutions so that we are basically 'solution sourcing,' rather than spending years going through [a bureaucratic] process. We're actually going to move quickly into providing solutions to some of the toughest problems we face."
It's that type of out-of-the box idea that Kundra may be contributing to the Obama transition team's Technology, Innovation and Government Reform working group. Kundra and Virginia Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra are group members, among several other IT luminaries, of this so-called "TIGR team."
Kundra's Office of the Chief Technology Officer has already found uses for some of the open source applications built by Apps for Democracy contestants, he said. Two examples: The iLive.at contest winner that maps the schools, banks, etc., nearest to a street address will be integrated into Washington, D.C.'s Web portal strategy so that all citizens may create their own iLive.at accounts. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is already integrating an Apps for Democracy application into its business process, Kundra said.
"I think I'm most proud of the fact that we have embarked on technology evolution, and this revolution has achieved what we are looking for in terms of transparency in government and in terms of the ability to engage citizens and lowering the cost of government operations," Kundra said.