Does the Indian government need a CIO?

It was in April 2006 that  was appointed as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Government of UK.  Suffolk’s agenda was to help the government deliver its strategy for the transformation of public services, enabled by technology.

In this role, John Suffolk has been providing leadership to the IT profession across the wider public sector, enabling public service transformation through the strategic deployment of technology and driving the development of shared services.

Incidentally, Suffolk is not the only national-level CIO, responsible for crafting a vision for a government and country. Vivek Kundra is the recently appointed CIO for the US government, a post that has existed since 2002, when the E-government Act established the role of a Federal Chief Information Officer.

The fact of the matter is that governments are increasingly looking towards experts who have the required qualifications, experience and leadership qualities, to help them drive public sector reform.

Such persons typically play a key role in leading the implementation of the Transformational government strategy, centred around the roll out of e-governance initiatives. Their agenda is to enable the government to deliver better and more efficient public services, that vastly enhance the government-citizen interface and ease the lives of ordinary citizens.

Interestingly, India could also benefit from the creation of such a high profile post, where a professional, drawn either from the public sector, the IT industry or academia, could spearhead the central government technology and e-governance initiatives.

The person at the helm would not only be the “face” of the Indian government’s IT strategy both at home and overseas, he/she would also be responsible for directing the policy and planning of technology investments and IT spend.

In the US, the Federal CIO establishes and oversees enterprise architecture to ensure system interoperability and information sharing and maintains information security and privacy across the federal government. As Chief Information Officer, Kundra is playing an important role in ensuring that the government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible.

His focus is on ensuring openness and transparency, lowering the cost of government, ensuring cyber-security, and driving participatory democracy, and innovation.

This could be the profile of an India CIO as well, provided such a post is created. Considering the large number of e-governance projects being rolled out by the union and state governments, a national level CIO, who is driving effective services designed around the needs of citizens and businesses, will be a strategic advantage for the country.

We hope to be debating the issue about whether the Indian government needs a CIO and discussing it with John Suffolk at the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2010. Do mark this session on your conference roster, you are sure to enjoy a scintillating interaction.

Post contributed by Vinita Chawla, NASSCOM

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