The federal government is losing its first-ever chief information officer.
Vivek Kundra, the man behind Data.gov, the government IT Dashboard and the federal initiative to reduce data centers and move to the cloud, will leave his post in August, according to Politico. He is reported to be going to Harvard to join the Kennedy School and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, according to Federal News Radio. President Obama had tapped Kundra to be the first federal CIO in 2009 after he had been the chief technology officer of Washington, D.C.
The move by Kundra may be the signal of a trend. Innovative technological minds do not want to work in federal (or state and local for that matter) government. Earlier this year, one of the most innovative minds within the federal technology landscape, NASA CTO Chris Kemp left the prestigious post to become a startup developer, saying that he would prefer to work on being an entrepreneur in Pala Alto, Calif.
While the personal moves may be on the verge of becoming a trend, there is no doubt that the part of the reason behind them stems from the lack of innovation and technological adoption in government. The best way to think of the federal government is that it is a large enterprise operation that is perpetually three to five years behind the times. On aggregate, that is true, though there are a few examples of agencies that operate with present or cutting edge technology, such as NASA, many of the armed forces (which is much more device driven than IT infrastructure driven) and executive level agencies like the State Department and Internal Revenue Service (that is not an oxymoron, the IRS spends nearly $14 billion dollars on IT infrastructure and tax systems ... yet, the Treasury Department as a whole is not incredibly innovative).
Kundra was part of the first technology team ever to work as a C-suite at the executive level within the Office of Management and Budget. Aneesh Chopra is the first federal CTO and Jeffrey Zients the first chief performance officer.
Kundra most lasting legacy on the federal government will probably be his "25 Point Plan" [PDF] outlining how the government can streamline the IT infrastructure, grow to be more technologically forward and cut wasteful IT spending.