Suzette Kent served as US federal CIO from early 2018 until her departure in July 2020. During her tenure she directed a wide range of technology and workforce initiatives, setting government-wide standards while giving agencies the freedom to tailor their efforts in mission-appropriate ways. Ms. Kent leaves behind a lasting legacy for government IT modernization that addresses both technical and financial challenges.
I recently interviewed Ms. Kent for my podcast to discuss her legacy, how she navigated the COVID-19 crisis as CIO, and why data is so important to the future of government.
What was the most challenging aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic from a federal IT perspective?
My role was to help accelerate communications to make sure that CIOs had everything that they needed. So some of that meant policy, some of it meant communicating information and using our channels in kind of extraordinary ways. We had great dialogue with private sector vendors. COVID-19 was accelerating a lot of things that were already in place.
How has the increased availability of data impacted government IT strategies?
Just because I can make data available, doesn’t mean it’s going to affect change. Some of the things that we built into the federal data strategy were far looking, but each year had an action plan that was very tactical. The action plan seeks to ensure that we have quality data. It also seeks to create a data-driven culture to support citizens in a more proactive way.
How involved should the private-sector be in federal IT decisions?
I personally challenge some private sector individuals to spend some time in government doing a tour of duty because I think you can ask challenging questions and say, “Why can’t we do it this way?” or “Could this work?” It’s about getting diversity of thought to the table, and that’s going to benefit everyone in the long run.
Listen to the full conversation with former United States Federal CIO Suzette Kent here.