Those who read my recent posts about the new US federal CIOs Vivek Kundra have certainly noticed how enthusiastically I welcomed his appointment and how strongly I felt about this being a turning point for a new role of IT in government. As I talked to clients in several countries over the last two weeks, I could sense interest, curiosity as well as excitement about how he could contribute to change the landscape for many public sector CIOs, showing how the CIO role can combine cost savviness and innovation. Even in countries that, for cultural or political reasons, have never been particularly attracted to what goes on in the US, every single person I talked to knew about Vivek. I do not believe this was just a consequence of effective media exposure: some of his early speeches struck a chord with many who were waiting for a new role model in the government IT domain.
Unfortunately something happened over the last few days that could question Vivek’s tenure: an FBI investigation concerning one of his reports in DC, where he was CTO, could jeopardize his role. This is not the place to make any sort of commentary or speculation, and none of the early reports makes any allegation about him knowing about the situation. However, a new administration that pushes for greater transparency, may find itself with little choice, and so could Vivek.
I do still hope in a positive outcome that allows Vivek to continue his adventure as the federal CIO, and the latest signs are quite encouraging. If that’s not the case, let’s not forget that the President set the foundations for openness of information to become a new driver for transformation, and that the economic situation may still act as a catalyst for some of Vivek’s early moves toward cloud computing. On the other hand, should the worse come to the worse, this may strengthen those who want to maintain the status quo and would fight against any disruption in the IT power balance across different agencies.
I can still hope that whoever leads the US federal government IT, be that Vivek or somebody else, will have the vision and the courage to make change happen.
I do vividly remember one thing Vivek told me when I asked him how he managed to get some very innovative ideas through the challenges of politics and legal issues. He said “I just present the idea (to lawyers and politicians) and ask them: Prove me wrong”.
Prove me wrong. I had a dream that we would hear this phrase more often in Washington. And I still do.