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Obama looks to make government more open to public

March 9, 2009

the_white_house2Last week, President Barack Obama appointed Vivek Kundra to the newly-created post of CIO. As of today, the CTO position is still unfilled, but the administration reportedly still plans to fill it in the near future. In his new role, Kundra, the former CTO of the District of Columbia, is tasked with finding new ways to make government data more open and accessible.

Photo from Whitehouse.gov

Photo from Whitehouse.gov

Obama’s position on making government more open for the public doesn’t really come as a surprise. He has been, by a large margin, the most tech-savvy President we have ever seen, and has from the very start used the Internet to reach out to the public.

He made great use of social networking sites as marketing tools during his campaign. When Obama announced his VP selection via Twitter, that told me he knew exactly which demographic he knew he had to capture to win the election. His election campaign involved younger staffers that knew exactly how to get the message out through sites like Facebook and MySpace. And it hasn’t stopped there.

To this day, Obama has made the official White House Web site a virtual log of what he has done and is planning to do. Obama has made a point to put all executive orders and actions he plans to take on the Internet, so that people can be more, or better informed as to what is happening at the highest level of government. So, in a sense, his marketing campaign continues, as he continues to reach out to citizens through various official and social networking sites.

This level of transparency and openness strikes a chord with many who’ve never felt particularly connected to a President, or the actions and decisions he makes on the behalf of the citizens of the United States. The White House Web site includes everything from speeches to official statements, to nominations and appointments, to his weekly address and a blog, and is all meant to make government more available and accessible to the public.

With Kundra’s appointment as the new CIO, Obama is clearly extending the reach of what he recognizes as a critical tool – making information easily available to the public via the Internet.

Kundra stated in a conference call with reporters that he plans to create a Web site called Data.gov. According to Kundra, this Web site would “democratize” the federal government’s informational resources, putting them into open formats. Additionally, he hopes to make use of emerging cloud computing technology to cut down on the need for expensive contractors. During his tenure as the District of Columbia’s CTO, Kundra provided online feeds to the public that supported a wide range of data, such as building permits, amongst other reports.*

This new post, and appointment, shows Obama recognizes that many Americans are growing more used to accessing the information they need exactly when they need it. As such, he understands the importance of putting more government data at the fingertips of those on the Internet, and thus continues his trend of making himself, his administration, and our government more accessible to the public through pre-existing, and with Kundra’s appointment, emerging Internet technologies.

* Information found on Computer World Web site

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