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Obama's data.gov CIO quits White House

Cloudy czar Vivek Kundra skips away from funding crisis

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The man behind the launch of the US government's Data.gov website, which is undergoing a funding crisis, is standing down from his job as federal CIO.

The White House confirmed today that Vivek Kundra, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in March 2009, had handed in his notice with plans to take on a fellowship post at Harvard University in August.

As The Register has previously reported, Data.gov has been the subject of serious funding cuts in recent months. Its budget was dramatically reduced from $35m in 2010 to just $8m this year.

All of which has led to a campaign from the Sunlight Foundation to restore the Government Electronic Fund. Open data enthusiasts over in the US have said that the cuts brought Obama's initial transparency and technology splurge under scrutiny.

Here in the UK, the inventor of the worldwide web Sir Tim Berners Lee recently told this reporter that it would be a great disappointment to see open data projects such as Data.gov closed or scaled down in an effort to cut costs.

"What would be a shame would be if people use 'depend on money' as an excuse to be lazy and not be transparent," he said in April.

Berners Lee added at the time that he hoped the UK version – data.gov.uk – didn't "follow suit".

He also argued that storing data in the public domain actually helped to push down costs, because there are fewer security concerns.

Kundra was the first US Chief Information Officer and he had been tasked with driving down government operations' costs, while also making data more "open" for the country's taxpayers.

"Two and a half years after joining the Administration, Vivek... has cracked down on wasteful IT spending, saved $3bn in taxpayer dollars; moved the government to the cloud; strengthened the cybersecurity posture of the nation while making it more open, transparent, and participatory," the federal government said in a statement.

"His work has been replicated across the world from 16 countries that have deployed the data.gov model to tap into the ingenuity of their people to multiple countries that have deployed the IT dashboard to save money."

The White House didn't state whether it was looking for a replacement to fill Vivek's soon-to-be-vacant role.

Meanwhile, House Appropriators' draft legislation is expected to be mulled over later today on Capitol Hill, which could see an extra $5m added to the electronic fund for this year.

"What does this mean in practical terms? Were the House Appropriations Subcommittee's text to be untouched during mark-up and adopted into law, the e-gov fund would marginally improve, moving from life support to critical condition," noted the Sunlight Foundation in a blog post on Wednesday.

"Enough money might be available to either make some improvements to its existing transparency programs, or perhaps to add a new program, but not much more than that. Progress on improving transparency websites and access to data would be slow, fitful, and uneven – but possible." ®

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