America’s CIO Wants to Harness the Power of Apps

America’s CIO Wants to Harness the Power of Apps

Steven VanRoekel, the Chief Information Technology Officer for the United States.

Steven VanRoekel, the new Chief Information Technology Officer for the United States, says smartphones  and apps have raised the bar for citizen expectations of their government.

The second person to hold the CIO post, after nearly a decade at Microsoft VanRoekel headed to the FCC. There, he launched Apps.gov and ran a public contest for a Mobile Broadband Testing app that earned him a phone call from late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Underlining the idea that you must do more with less, VanRoekel said: “That was a project that cost just five digits and Steve Jobs called us to say that he liked it.”

In his first public appearance since his appointment in August, VanRoekel launched an initiative dubbed “Future First,” to bring the government into “lean start-up mode.”

VanRoekel oversees IT spending for the federal government, which outstrips any corporate budget with $80 billion shelled out per year. His top two priorities are closing or optimizing data centers (there are 2,800 currently) and moving to the cloud.

“The American people expect us to use technology to provide the same level of service they experience in their everyday lives,” he said. “They pay bills online and buy plane tickets on smartphones. And it’s not just the millennial generation – with 80-year-olds now using Facebook to keep in touch with grandchildren across the country – expectations have reached a critical point even faster than anticipated.”

VanRoekel, who underlined his geek cred by showing pictures of himself in 1983 with a Commodore 64, addressed members of the Churchill Club at Parc headquarters in Palo Alto.

As for the current jumble of systems used, he confirmed that the U.S. government is still a “Blackberry shop,” and that he plans to open the system up to the iPhone and Android. He also mentioned cases of employees bringing their own iPads to work and using Citrix.

“We don’t have a mobile strategy. That’s top of mind for me.”

One of his first meetings for the “Future First” initiative he launched at the conference is with the National Institute of Standards & Tech (NIST) – which is already testing an iPad 2 pilot program.

You can read his entire speech here (.pdf).

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Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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