Web managers get a glimpse of the future

Monday - 5/3/2010, 6:27am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

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By Max Cacas
Reporter
Federal News Radio

A record number of the federal government's top web managers and producers attended the recent 2010 Government Web and New Media Conference. They had a chance to hear from two of the top feds when it comes to government information technology today.

The opening keynote panel to the conference featured as one of its speakers Vivek Kundra, the federal Chief Information Officer. Following his appearance, Federal News Radio spoke to Kundra as he made his way to his next White House meeting.

He says federal web managers can expect more -- not less -- digital content, in years to come, and the need to deal in an open and transparent manner with all that content, all at a time of increasing scrutiny over IT spending.

Whether it's the mobile revolution, or cloud computing, what we need to be able to do as we look at our investments in information technology in fiscal year 2011, and the current fiscal year, we have to be sure we are intelligently allocating capital to investments that are going to make a difference in the lives of the American people. What we don't have to do is invest in the same old technologies a decade after investing over $500 billion in IT.

Kundra points to a number of the Obama Administration's accomplishments in the last year in the area of information technology:

  • "The Open Government Directive;
  • Policy shifts when it comes to challenges and prizes;
  • The Paperwork Reduction Act
  • Cultural shifts toward more openness, transparency, and participation in government.
  • $34 billion in IT spending in the current fiscal year, and $85 billion proposed for FY 2011."

He points to the Web Managers conference itself, which reports nearly doubling in size and attendance, as proof that more and more of the government is being conducted digitally.

The lead-off speaker at the conference was to have been Martha Johnson, the head of the General Services Administration, which helped organize the web managers conference. But a scheduling conflict initially kept her from coming to the Renaissance Hotel.

Later in the morning, however, organizers scrambled, and found a high-tech, new media solution --- SKYPE -- to the low-tech problem. Surprised and delighted attendees heard Johnson say that this was not her first time on SKYPE.

"I've SKYPEd over the last year or so with my kids, so I'm sort of familiar with it," she said over an unusually clear video and audio connection with her office at GSA headquarters, adding, "Usually, we're not so formal with the flags over the background. "

Johnson said that helping to lead events like the Web Managers Conference and operating offices like the Federal Center for New Media and Citizen Engagement are part of GSA's effort to become a "change agent, and that's a leadership role in government."

She added, "We're very serious about our open government role," especially, Johnson says in the need to be, "more transparent, especially when it comes to sharing more data, and revealing more of what's going on so people can understand what's going on in government. Second, we're using social media tools to enable people to add their comments, and join in conversations. But the real challenge is to be collaborative. We're only on the edge of learning how to collaborate using technologies, because that means a lot of merging of ideas, and not just voting and ranking. It's a very different kind of discussion."

Johnson says she's eager to work with federal web managers to "push the frontiers" when it comes to collaborating within the context of the federal government, and to determine what tools are available - or need to be developed - to further that collaboration.

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