Sunday, April 26, 2009

Even the government can innovate

This may be hard to imagine in Malaysia at this point. But, we can hope...

Vivek Kundra, the first-ever federal Chief information Officer in the U.S., is serious about bringing the latest Net technologies to the federal government. In his first one-on-one interview since being named to his post, the 34-year-old native of India told BusinessWeek he hopes to transform the way the government uses technology.

He plans on making it more efficient by getting agencies to share information and computers. And he'll use social networking Web sites to open a conversation between the government and citizens. He also believes government should no longer build all of its computing systems and Web sites from scratch, the way it has in the past. "I want to make sure we're leveraging innovations from throughout the world," he says.

Some U.S. business leaders also praise Kundra's affection for so-called cloud computing. Rather than each department of government having its own data centers, he wants departments to share large clusters of computers (known in the industry as "clouds") so they can squeeze more efficiency out of them. He also recognises the potential of Crowdsourcing, a phenomenon that I have blogged about on a few occasions.

Can Malaysia take advantage of the evolution and leapfrog into the future at a faster click?

By the way, Vivek Kundra is literally a pendatang to the U.S. It doesn't seem to bother them.

Read his brief biography here. He's quite a guy.


flyer168 said...

De minimis,

Another great article to highlight the 21st century Government through Innovations in the United States of America with its "Pendatang" & the "Harnessing" of their "Great Participation, Talents & Contributions."

Vivek Kundra is such a Great, Talented, Gifted Person & this can only happen in America with Obama....

Yes, can & will Malaysia accept such "Talents" from amongst our Anak Bangsa Malaysia?

Vivek Kundra
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vivek Kundra (विवेक कुंद्रा)

1st United States Chief Information Officer
President Barack Obama
Vice President Joe Biden
Preceded by Karen S. Evans (de facto)

Vivek Kundra (Hindi: विवेक कुंद्रा) is the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the United States of America.[1][2] He has indicated that he will also have the role of the Office of Management and Budget administrator for e-government and information technology.[3] He served in Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's cabinet as the Chief Technology Officer for the District and, before that, as Virginia's Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Technology in Governor Tim Kaine's cabinet.

Early Life
Vivek Kundra was born in New Delhi, India. He immigrated to Tanzania with his parents. Kundra speaks Swahili as his first language. His family moved to the United States when he was 11 and he grew up in Gaithersburg, Maryland. [4] [5]

In 1997, at age twenty-two, Kundra pled guilty to a petty theft charge for stealing dress shirts from a JC Penney store in Maryland. He was fined $500, but the sentence was suspended, and he only had to pay $100 plus court costs; he also was sentenced to eighty hours of community service.[6]

He has been recognized by InfoWorld among the top 25 CTO's in the country[7] and as the 2008 IT Executive of the Year[8] for his pioneering work to drive transparency, engage citizens and lower the cost of government operations.

In 2007 he assembled the largest United States trade delegation ever to visit India, comprising over one hundred business leaders, which resulted in a $99 million investment for the state of Virginia.

He has been recognized for his work in developing programs to spur open source and crowdsourced applications using publicly accessible Web services from the District of Columbia with an initiative called Apps for Democracy. His efforts to use cloud-based Web applications in the District government have been considered innovative within government.[9]

Mr. Kundra advised President Barack Obama's transition committee on technology issues.

He was considered as one of the possible candidates for the position of Federal Chief Technology Officer[10] as well as other positions.

[11] He was officially named by President Obama on March 5, 2009 to the newly-created post of Federal CIO[2] a position that was previously unofficially filled by Karen S. Evans.[12]

On March 12, 2009, Kundra's former DC CTO offices[13] were raided by the FBI as part of an "ongoing investigation." [14] The office is being scrutinized for evidence into corruption charges against a subordinate [15] involving the procurement process of software. Mr. Kundra was not a part of the investigation.[16] Kundra took a leave of absence pending results of the investigation[17] and returned to his position on March 17, 2009.[18]

One of Mr. Kundra's first projects will be the launch of, a site for providing access to government data.[19]

Mr. Kundra will work closely with the Chief Technology Officer, Aneesh Chopra.

Kundra earned a degree in psychology and a masters degree in information technology from the University of Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia's Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

See Also Government 2.0

^ a b Kim Hart (2009-03-05). D.C. Tech Chief Tapped for White House Slot. Washington Post. Retrieved on 2009-03-05.
^ President Obama won't give his convicted computer whiz Vivek Kundra the boot, New York Daily News, March 17, 2009
^ Gruman, Galen (2008-06-08). The best CTOs of 2008. InfoWorld. Retrieved on 2009-03-05.
^ Michelle Ferrone (2008-11-07). [ The Tech Council of Maryland Announces Award Winners of 2008 CIO&CTO LIVE! Awards]. Tech Council MD. Retrieved on 2009-03-05.
^ Kash, Wyatt (January 19, 2009). "The Karen Evans era". Government Computer News (1105 Media). Retrieved on 2009-04-20.

[edit] External Links
An article from November 20, 2008, entitled 'Democratizing Data and Putting it in the Public Domain'

Live On Video: Federal CIO Vivek Kundra In His Own Words - InformationWeek Wolfe's Den blog - March 6, 2009

de minimis said...

bro flyer168

As always, your kind words are always a source of encouragement.

walla said...

To roll out things like cloud computing, you need real thunder and lightning. Someone who can cut the red tape and, with sufficient chutzpah, zeus his way to galvanize inter-agency cooperation to reconfigure how government entities are organized to serve.

In our own national computerization initiatives, one lesson learned was the resistance of agency heads to share information with other agencies. Only recently has it been possible to make some headway. That was also after much retooling to make different vendor systems talk to one another.

Cloud computing, if i may, is in essence computerized outsourced information shared services with view to transforming government entities into holonic enterprises with fundamentally better ROIs. That means it's not just collaborative server banks but also communication networks and seamless applications like web2.0 and all sorts of operating standards and protocols including security cascades.

On the pro side, cc makes sense; it takes off the infrastructure and maintenance costs whose investments can be redeployed for other service deliveries so you get economies of scale plus management bottom-line refocus plus things like outsourced scalability, SaaS license savings(software-as-a-service) and speed-to-change flexibility from recurring update cycles.

There are however flip-sides; one, all must know the enterprise-wide data architecture in order to get some reassurance that they know where their client data will be residing because, akin to google, the clouds can locate anywhere on the e-infrastructure. So it's a data protection issue. Second, SSL (secure socket layers) lock data when packeting but what locks them when residential? So it's also a security issue. Third, what are the DRPs (disaster recovery provisions) for cc's? For example, if some of the shared servers happen to be beachside and the july22nd tsunami hits all, the cloud may fracture with a cable whammy at the brickfields internet station. Fourth, since it's webified apps open to all manners of imaginative intrusions, how good and fast will electronic forensics have to be to reboot what is essentially a multiplex shadow system? Fifth, the outsourced SLAs (service level agreements)may not yet be there comprehensively including such counter lock-ins as inter-vendor portabilities.

Thus, in the short-term, gcc would probably look at virtual deposition of things like e-mails and e-images; to go on to other mission-critical applications like g2c mass customization, a host of factors will certainly need to be addressed first.

But having said that, cc can quickly come onboard in some areas. A cloud can say host public information. Imagine web-nubile citizens like you (but not me) waking up to get a thunderbolt from the government - "surprise sleepyheads, no income tax this year."

While that is assayed, start seeding a government cloud to share things like economic data and tertiary research. If you like, you can even fire up one that carries some sort of mida portfolio; a citizen meeting a flame in an influential position in a multinational at one of the e-kiosks in the airport terminal can log in and lure for inbound investment with all the business case parameters laid out in a click or two.

Of course by now a cynical curl forms at the corner of your lips. How to do all that when governments are still gingerly steering away from that word 'transparency'?

The answer, my friend, is not just blowin' in the wind; it could also be comin' from the clouds.. some thunderclaps and thunderbolts as wake-up calls.

Actually, governments are the key candidates to innovate. Not just information technology but other technologies too. They're both local and global. They're federated which allows a nice configuration to tap networking synergies. But that's for another day since that notion drips into biological systems.

So it remains to close with a potential candidate for the government's launching of cloud computing:

(...on second thoughts, better get the original)

de minimis said...

bro walla

Malaysians like you are examples that there is a huge reservoir of untapped technical talent. The only thing is, if you and I do get around to preparing a cost-saving, green-friendly, low-cost, highly efficient cloud computing model for the Malaysian government - what is the risk that the proposal gets "hijacked" by people with better technical KNOW-WHO?????

chapchai said...

Dare I suggest that most Vivek Kundra wannabes from the pendatang community in Malaysia have fled these shores?

walla said...

Looking at the fresh and cheerful faces who decant from private colleges preparing our youngsters for overseas programs every year, one can only say the exodus has been increasing for some time.

Will they come back or will they try to stay on overseas? The last set of official replies had fairly muddled numbers. You can conclude it's still moot.

But one thing for sure, we are late in giving them a reason to come back or for those who haven't left, sufficient confidence that things will quickly improve.

Personal security is one aspect. That also impinges on inbound investments. Perceptions are created. We also have to go far, far beyond just being a trading nation.

The recent easings may reverse trends and help create more jobs but we still have to figure out how to tap them with view to building new capabilities. How that is going to happen while exodus of minds is going on one wonders with some amount of distress.

Governments should realize what they decide and do will take broad effects only later. Education takes at least ten years to turn the ship. Investment may be faster but it has to also neutralize any persistent negative perceptions built over the years. Just as in marketing an international event, there is a latency period before targets can be achieved. This period is also prolonged by every new move that counteracts the intents of the new initiatives so governments must be sure it's all coordinated at every level; meanwhile certain concerns will have to be addressed...perhaps with additional initiatives which will reformat how existing players must realign themselves to tap openings more efficiently.

One hopes we are not in the situation where manufacturing has hollowed out but services are still lacking the local resources to make up for the slack. That may end us up in some form of suspended animation with regards economic development.

If you look at the present organizational structure in government, there is one piece missing in the whole set-up.

The world is changing fast. There are very significant challenges. Perils are yawning but they also hold some promise of new services, new business models, perhaps even new products. These should be considered to finetune our investment promotion strategies.

The missing piece seems to be this - who's thinking about all this? If you say the academic think tanks, they will write reports at fairly macro levels. Mostly on economics. If you say it's the government internal policy research units, again fairly macro; they may take some ideas from industry interactions. But those industries are local or localized, not the players we should also be targeting with the new incentives. And if you say it's university faculties, that's difficult to assess because the most they get will be from interactions on short stints at conferences overseas.

What is needed is perhaps an idea-generator organization whose remit is to coordinate, focus and catalyze creation and exchange of ideas from an international community of entrepreneurs, industrialists, service providers, marketing institutions and so on at a level below that of say the IAP but higher than that of operation. It should be open to all industries and service sectors so that they can commingle to generate new or even hybrid ideas beyond the pally annual get-togethers of associations and NGOs. There should be a set of protocols to operate the activities, including IP and equity. By exploding it to an international level with national reputation at stake, that might circumvent the technical know-who hijacking of ideas. It might also help attenuate the lines of politics that currently form the major dividing criterion of the human resource of this country.

Possibly the time has come for that, for, at the pavement level, there seems to be a pall overhanging lately. It's starting to look like a lamlay situation.

..just whistlin' again..

de minimis said...


Dr M was an admirer of think tanks- the Rand Corp, in particular, and wrote as much in the penultimate chapter of his Dilemma. Thus ISIS was born. It's remit was narrowed into security and regional issues.

M'sian think tanks evolved into accessories for wannabe PMs after that - filled with wannabe pseudo-intellectuals.

So, in this landscape of wanton waste of intellect we may need to "machete" a path towards a truly independent cluster of think tanks - a kind of amorphous "thinking cloud" that only has Malaysia's multiracial interest at heart.

And, hopefully, in the mean time, new seeds will be sown in Malaysian schools to rekindle genuine thinking. 10 years is a long time to see fruits.

walla said...

Dhahran Sea said...

Interesting personality, this Mr. Vivek Kundra... obviously he's a great salesman, i.e. getting buyins to his innovative ideas all the way to the president of the USA... however, I've yet to see his nebulous ideas coming to some concrete fruition... so far they are just that, "ideas"?
As to "pendatang" issue, its a non-issue in the US I think (correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought, historically, ALL "Americans", apart from the "orang asli", i.e. the Red Indians, are in fact "pendatang"?); anyway, its a non-issue mainly because all of one's cultural/ethnic baggages got melted down in its great anglo-western melting pot. I mean of course one can still retain one's Chinese, Indian, Korean, Malay, Vietnamese, Chicano, etc. names, languages, cultures, etc., BUT one better get "melted" into taking/accepting English as its national language, among other things; otherwise we become "terpinggir"?.
I notice the new generation "Indian" (like Vivek Kundra)/"Chinese"/"Vietnamese" Americans speak the national language (i.e. American English) very fluently... I wonder whether this could happen to "pendatang" in/to other countries, like Malaysia or Thailand for example? I also notice that many "Malaysian" politicians (Samy Vellu is a classic example, even after getting rich for so many year in the country) have not really "melted" and master even a decent level of Bahasa Melayu... unless of course they don't accept/recognize Bahasa Melayu as the national "melting" language, which is another story/issue altogether... I wonder what does it take for the "pendatang" to good ol' Malaya to really feel part of the country?
I understand that Thaksin is of "Chinese" origin, but he's as true-blue a Thai as one can get... I wonder how the Thais get their "melting" pot working? Maybe we can learn something from them to "melt" the "pendatang" to Malaya into true blue Malaysians, and make this nation of ours fully realize its full potential?