Vein targets innovation as new deputy CTO

Wednesday - 5/18/2011, 9:08am EDT

Chris Vein, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President

Click below to hear the interview

Download mp3

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Chris Vein has returned to Washington as the Deputy Chief Technology Officer at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. A serial innovator, Vein was CIO of San Francisco.

He's no stranger to the Federal Government. Vein has worked for three other administrations dating back to Ronald Reagan.

Vein told Federal News Radio this definitely isn't the federal government he left in 1983. "So much has changed in those 18 years," said Vein. In addition to innovation, open government, said Vein, "at a fundamental level what's changed is simply the use of technology. Back then, we really didn't have cell phones and....we didn't conduct our business through the internet. So many things were different." The work of the federal government is now "24/7/365," said Vein, and technology "changes how we work and what we work on and how we respond to it. So many changes, it's hard to capture."

But, like the saying goes about art, Vein knew change when he saw it. "What I found, and knew before coming in, but what I found is amazing pockets of innovation taking place all across government in various places both small and large. And what I've been focusing on is taking those pockets of innovation and trying to understand what makes them work and what could make them work better, and try to come up with a strategy or a plan or a framework that could be used to take the best that we're doing and scale it across the government. So that's what I'm working on."

Sounds simple when he says it.

Vein pointed to the way the Department of Transportation has adopted the idea of crowdsourcing as innovated. He said DOT has taken the idea of using technology, where people can share ideas which can be voted up or down, and through that process, "create a meaningful, directed conversation with staff that was never possible before and readily identify ideas that an individual agency like DOT can actually implement. And, you know, that kind of efficiency and effectiveness of that decision making is really what has changed and is exciting."

He told the Federal Drive the adoption of new technology or ways to use it is not his focus. Rather, he said, it's what the technology allows agencies to accomplish.

"Day in and day out we're committed to this thing called 'public service.' We're committed to doing the best job we can of meeting the missions of our particular agency, and so whatever we can do to capture that energy and turn it into action is what technology is all about, and so I think that is what is working and I'm trying to figure out how to scale that."