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Former Microsoft exec to succeed Kundra as America's IT czar

Former Microsoft executive Steven VanRoekel has been named America's top IT czar to succeed Indian-American Vivek Kundra, who is leaving the top Obama administration job to pursue a Harvard fellowship.

world Updated: Aug 05, 2011 22:15 IST

Former Microsoft executive Steven VanRoekel has been named America's top IT czar to succeed Indian-American Vivek Kundra, who is leaving the top Obama administration job to pursue a Harvard fellowship.

The White House made the announcement on Thursday.

VanRoekel, 41, said he would use his new role as chief information officer (CIO) to introduce new technologies to improve government service as well as focus on cutting costs in an age of austerity.

"The productivity gap between where the private sector has gone over the last two decades and where government has gone is ever-widening," VanRoekel told reporters at the White House, attributing this largely to the government’s slow uptake and lack of spending on new technology.

This "can be done in a way that actually saves money, saves resources and everything else," he was quoted as saying by The Washington Post.

VanRoekel spent 15 years at Microsoft — including a stint as Bill Gates's assistant — before becoming the managing director of the Federal Communications Commission in 2009. At the FCC, he oversaw the implementation of many of Kundra's projects, such as a shift to so-called cloud computing.

The US government is the world's largest customer for IT services and products. VanRoekel will oversee an annual spending budget of USD 80 billion.

Kundra, 36, was appointed America's first federal CIO in 2009 and has been credited with USD 3 billion in savings, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

Kundra's "cloud-first" policy encouraged government departments to shift to cloud computing where possible, allowing employees to access more services online and reducing the need to buy certain hardware for every office.

He has said that two federal departments, the General Services Administration and the Department of Agriculture, stand to collectively save USD 42 million over five years after shifting their e-mail systems to the cloud.

Kundra is also credited with improving transparency by putting vast amounts of government data online, with web sites such as usaspending.gov and itdashboard.gov.