U.S. CIO: America's future depends on ability to innovate

Newly-instated U.S. chief information officer Steven VanRoekel discusses his priorities for the federal IT landscape and how technology can enable the government to do more for Americans.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Innovation has been the driving force in American history and the way we work, enjoy life, and interact with others, according to U.S. chief information officer Steven VanRoekel.

"The government plays a nice role in igniting that spark," said VanRoekel during a lecture hosted by the Churchill Club in Silicon Valley on Tuesday evening. "Government needs to have a role in removing barriers to growth and investment."

Cyber security, interestingly enough, could actually be construed as one of those barriers. VanRoekel noted that online security is often used as an excuse to not move forward and innovate, whether it be going mobile or into the cloud.

"It makes a false choice between security and innovation," VanRoekel argued. "Security and innovation should dovetail into an opportunity."

VanRoekel remarked to anyone who doubts that now is the time to invest, more than half of the Fortune 500 companies today were founded in the worst economic times. He added that opportunity speaks to access to people looking for jobs and the next big thing, citing that the social media revolution right now is speaking to those themes.

"America's future depends on our ability to innovate," VanRoekel asserted, adding that innovation is needed to drive the next wave of end user benefits and change the way we do business, among other benefits.

VanRoekel was appointed as CIO earlier this year after Vivek Kundra stepped down and the position itself has only existed for a few years. VanRoekel described his job as one that sets policy and strikes "the great balance between inspire and push."

Thus, VanRoekel listed some of the topics he plans to address as U.S. CIO, including redefining engagement with and addressing the productivity gap in government

More specifically, he unveiled a new initiative dubbed "Future First," which aims to open a dialog between the government and citizens about the way we should invest in government technology. Examples of ideas include whether or not we should focus on virtualization, developing web services first, etc.

So far, some of the services under this umbrella include building a new talent pool with the Presidential Technology Fellows program as well as Entrepreneurs in Residence, which is piloting at the FDA and Department of Health and Human Services to bring in experts to run these teams and work on agile development.

"The beauty of innovation is that it is an endless resource unlike many things in our lives," VanRoekel concluded, "That opportunity has never been greater to seize and drive forward a phenomenon."


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