Steven VanRoekel, a former Microsoft executive, will become the next chief information officer for the federal government â€” a bigger, more policy-oriented technology job than any he held at the software giant.
Steven VanRoekel, a former Microsoft executive, was managing director of the F.C.C.
Mr. VanRoekel, 41, who joined the Obama administration from Microsoft in 2009 as managing director of the Federal Communications Commission, will succeed Vivek Kundra, the White House plans to announce on Thursday.
The federal government spends about $80 billion a year on information technology, more than any corporation. But the government, analysts agree, has not achieved the kind of productivity gains from its technology investment that is evident in the private sector.
The long-term trend of productivity growth in the private sector, said Jeffrey D. Zients, a deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, has been about 1.5 percent a year. Yet productivity growth in the federal government, he noted, has been less than a third that level.
Senior administration officials came into office convinced that computing technology could be bought and used more intelligently to save money, reduce waste and make government work better. â€œWe believe that the use of information technology is the single biggest reason for the gap between the public and private sector,â€ Mr. Zients said in an interview on Wednesday.
Mr. Kundra, 36, led the effort to overhaul the governmentâ€™s approach to technology for more than two years. He is going to Harvard to take a joint appointment at the Kennedy School of Government and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the law school.
Mr. Kundra, analysts say, came in with an ambitious agenda and made some progress. When he arrived at the White House, Mr. Kundra recalled, he was handed a thick pile of papers, documenting $27 billion in technology projects that were running well over budget and well behind schedule.
To address the problem, the administration built IT Dashboard, a Web site accessible to the public that tracks the spending and progress federal technology projects. Mr. Kundra and his team have used the project-tracking data to conduct TechStat sessions, reviews of the governmentâ€™s largest, most troubled technology initiatives. As a result, projects have been pared back or eliminated, saving $3 billion, the government estimates.
Under Mr. Kundra, analysts say, the government agencies have moved to adopt new technologies that can improve efficiency. The government is shifting to cloud computing, in which people access applications like e-mail over the Internet rather than in desktop software. Another tool is software that shares computing tasks across several machines in a data center, reducing the number of computers â€” and data centers â€” needed.
The government has begun a program intended to close 800 of its 2,000 data centers over the next four years. That effort is on track to close 195 computer centers this year.
The pace of technology projects has accelerated as well. The government estimates that the average time needed to deliver a software application or component has been trimmed to eight months, from 24 months.
In its drive to make its technology less costly and more nimble, the government has, said Shawn P. McCarthy, an analyst at IDC, â€œdefinitely made progress down that path, though probably not as much as Vivek Kundra had wanted.â€
The administration has also put all kinds of government data on the Web, mostly on the Web site Data.gov, including economic, health care, environmental and other information. There are now more than 389,000 data sets online, and citizen programmers have created more than 230 applications using the data.
Mr. VanRoekel worked for Microsoft for 15 years, including a stint as an assistant to Bill Gates, the co-founder. Mr. VanRoekel was a supporter of President Obama, attended the inauguration, and after a conversation with Julius Genachowski, the new chairman of the F.C.C., went to work for him.
As the governmentâ€™s chief information officer, Mr. VanRoekel said he planned to move ahead with the work Mr. Kundra began.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to make sure that the pace of innovation in the private sector can be applied to the model that is government,â€ Mr. VanRoekel said.
A version of this article appeared in print on August 4, 2011, on page B4 of the New York edition with the headline: White House Names a New Chief of Information Technology.