Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Apps for Democracy… and my recommendation for Obama’s CTO

with 11 comments

I have been remiss about pointing to Washington, D.C.’s simply remarkable Apps For Democracy program — but it also brings me to the person who would be my recommendation for the new chief technology officer in the Obama administration –DC’s CTO Vivek Kundra.

As regular readers know, I’m a huge fan of Virtual Alabama, the marvelous program developed by the Alabama Department of Homeland Security… and one part of this amazing program is the power of data — Virtual Alabama is able to take data that already exists and make it available to first responders. It gives them the right information at the right time in the right form — making data usable.

Why not do that for citizens?

Well, that is exactly what Kundra is doing — and he is doing it by making public data transparent and available. Kundra has had a program of making public data available. You can find the District’s data sets at Having done that, Kundra worked with iStrategy Labs to create the Apps For Democracy contest where the District offered up prize money for the best applications that was developed using that public data.

We spoke with Peter Corbett of iStrategy Labs on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris on Wednesday about the program. The results are remarkable.

For example, how would you like to develop a tour of historic Washington on a Google Map that taps into photos from Flickr photo feeds, Wikipedia entries, and government data? Click over to and check it out.

Or maybe you are more practical and you want to find out if there is street parking available someplace in downtown DC? Then check out Park It DC at The application lets you check a specific area in DC for parking information.

Or maybe you go out on a Saturday night and… well, you have too much fun. There is an application called StumbleSafely that lets you find the safest way to walk home that incorporates crime data — again, using public data.

It is a fantastic idea — and a great way to make public information widely available.

To that end, Kundra is one of the best and the brightest out there. He has been doing absolutely innovative things at DC’s CTO — as we reported when I was at Federal Computer Week, Kundra has been very innovative — perhaps one of the most innovative in the country — at actually implementing these Web 2.0 programs in effective ways. From FCW’s March story:

The District of Columbia’s 33-year-old chief technology officer, Vivek Kundra, wants to bring government procurement into the world of wikis and YouTube videos.

The test case is fairly straightforward. The city needs a vendor to build a 100,000- square-foot evidence warehouse for the police department, so as always, it issued a request for bids. But then it gets more interesting.

The city also created a wiki to host the solicitation documents. Along with the request for bids, the wiki has an interactive question-and-answer section and a link to complete video coverage of apresolicitation conference for potential bidders. The video link takes bidders to social-networking Web site YouTube.

The city has never handled a major procurement in such a manner. But Mayor Adrian Fenty and the city’s CTO aren’t afraid to try new approaches to the most basic government processes.

“The value that these Web 2.0 technologies demonstrate surpasses the old command- and-control model of application development,” Kundra said. “It’s basically like a movie being played in front of the world.

Continue reading about the collaboration gurus here.

With all the names floated out there for the Obama CTO post, Government Technology is reporting — and I’ve heard it too — Kundra would somebody who could provide strategy — and could help make things happen. And Kundra would be additive to the government — allowing agency CIOs to do their jobs better.

Read more about Kundra on the CTO Vision blog.

Written by cdorobek

November 20, 2008 at 6:39 PM

11 Responses

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  1. Chris, Chris, Chris,
    Afraid I beat you on this one! See here three days ago: and here last night:!
    But great minds think alike, so welcome to the bandwagon ;-)

    Anne Laurent

    November 20, 2008 at 8:51 PM

  2. […] told you about this earlier, but WTOP star reporter Mark Seagraves scored an interview with DC CTO Vivek Kundra and confirmed […]

  3. The DC Government CTO is a very bright man with a team of very bright co-workers that he has masterly leveraged to build a legacy and a name for DC Government. He deserves a strong look because of his exceptional leadership capabilities. He must not let the notoriety and a novice nature lead him to arrogance if he decides to join the FEDS or if President Elect Obama decides to recruit him do to his connections with Mayor Fenty.

    Just have to ensure when in the Federal Space he balances his innovative strategies with SECURITY FIRST in mind so that the cyber-threats of social engineering is not taken advantage of by the ever growing terrorist threat. That makes use of the GOOGLE OPEN CLOUD to make America weaker.

    APPS for Democracy is good for the public… but it can be a dangerous thing, if not secured and scrutinized for the Common Defense.

    Old Soldier

    November 30, 2008 at 7:08 PM

  4. […] I have written a number of posts about it — see here… and here… and here… And on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris […]

  5. […] […]

  6. […] Washington, DC CTO Vivek Kundra for… well, just selecting a few things will be difficult, but… I think I’ll point to his efforts with Apps For Democracy. […]

  7. […] other example is the iPhone application where, like other examples of where government releases data is a usable way, people then create… Read more about the […]

  8. […] and they talk about how the government of Washington, D.C. and DC CTO Vivek Kundra (a CJD-fav ) has been using many of these tools very effectively: Federal agencies must recognize the […]

  9. […] freeing up data… the UK report makes specific mention of Washington, DC’s remarkable Apps for Democracy project , which many organizations are now testing […]

  10. […] the UK government 2.0 report , which I would recommend… and as they are doing at DC with its Apps for Democracy. We’ll talk about the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration […]

  11. […] […]

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