We were elated when we first heard 34-year-old Vivek Kundra, previously responsible for all things tech in the DC municipal government, was being tapped as the first “CIO of America.”
Vivek is a fan of running offices on low-cost Google (GOOG) Apps, and even proposed letting people pay their parking tickets on Facebook. Besides being a fresh face and innovative thinker, Vivek, we believed, was one of us, someone who really understood technology, new media and its potential.
The honeymoon didn’t last long. Only a week after his appointment, FBI agents raided Vivek’s former offices and arrested two amidst an ongoing investigation into kickbacks, forcing the White House to put him “on leave.”
At this point, there’s no choice: Vivek Kundra should step aside.
No one has accused Vivek of direct wrongdoing. But Vivek’s apparent obliviousness to the alleged criminal behaviour in his office hardly testifies to his managerial skills. Especially not given Vivek’s self-promotion as a crusader against corruption. If Vivek couldn’t keep tiny DC clean, can he handle the responsibility of an exponentially larger federal budget?
Even if Vivek is clean as a whistle, his effectiveness as a reformer has already been crippled. Who won’t question Vivek’s motives should the new CIO call for a radical reform of our government’s IT infrastructure? Is there any chance Vivek can implement real reform while we wait — over the course of months and years — for more information about what he knew to dribble out of an ongoing criminal investigation?
Reforming the federal government’s bloated web presence is a huge job, one we once thought Vivek Kundra was an inspired choice to tackle. But surely Vivek isn’t the only person capable of taking on the dot-gov mess.
Image David Clow / Flickr