Vivek Kundra, the first CIO of the U.S., today relaunched his IT Dashboard, a Web site (and now mobile app) that enables anyone to view the finest details of the federal government's $80 billion IT spending. Kundra told Politico today that he modeled the Web site after a stock portfolio, wanting government officials and the general public to be able to see the spending as an investment. "You can slice and dice data by bureau, investment, line items, and contracts," Kundra said. "This helps us find problem areas across the government."
Indeed, like Scottrade or Mint.com, the IT Dashboard provides sleek tools to understand the federal budget in an accessible way, from Flash-enhanced bar-graphs and pie-charts, to spending trends and by-agency cost ratings and evaluations. It's hard to think of Kundra's site as a public sector creation—the beautiful design and cut-through-the-bureaucracy tools feel almost too high-tech and smart for the federal government to have produced. For example, clicking into the $6.5 billion Department of Homeland Security's IT budget, you can see the behemoth broken down in each of its dozen bureaus, from the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office ($149.8 million in spending in FY2010, with an overall rating of 4.7) to the Secret Service ($110 million, with a rating of only 3.7). Gosh, shouldn't the Nuclear Detection Office and the Secret Service have higher ratings?
You can also click over to an Investments tab to view exactly where tax-payer money is heading, and see major milestones of the investment, how much it's under (or over) budget, whether it's on schedule, and what its rating is. Even if the investments sound a bit confusing—the DHS's Unique Identity-10-Print Interoperability, for instance—the Dashboard provides helpful descriptions for each item to break through the nonsense.
Of course, a sophisticated Web site of this magnitude doesn't come cheap, but it is certainly easy to use. Imagine how long it would take before to find out what the U.S. spent on the IT Dashboard? How much bureaucracy and red tape would you have to fight through to discover the answer? Now, it's just a matter of punching an agency or department name into the site's powerful search engine, and the Dashboard will do all the work for you.
In this case, USASpending.gov's IT Dashboard is $0.1 million under budget, ahead of schedule by 1.3%, and has an overall rating of 7.5. And the cost to create the USASpending.gov? $8 million, with the dashboard itself costing $1.3 million to build.
For this kind of high-tech transparency, I think it's absolutely worth it.