Premier 100 IT Leader profile: Christopher L. Smith

Computerworld – Christopher L. Smith, CIO of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is always looking toward the horizon.

Smith, 44, has moved his agency from dated systems, some from the 1980s, to private and public clouds. Among other things, he shifted 120,000 employees and contractors from a multitude of legacy messaging systems to Microsoft’s email and Office cloud platform.

The agency supports just about any mobile device, and it might adopt a bring-your-own-device policy, pending legal and security clearances, says Smith.

He is also piloting new broadband technology in a rural area in Hawaii. Government workers need to have access to data-intensive GIS maps and engineering diagrams, says Smith. To better provide that access, he is using a new technology from Alcatel-Lucent called LightRadio, which has reduced a cellphone tower to a palm-size cube. LightRadio could significantly cut the cost of building networks, says Smith, adding that it might be “one of the answers to wireless rural broadband for the nation.”

To get past resistance to the idea of delivering IT as a service, Smith unbundled the infrastructure, offered services piecemeal and made the concepts behind the setup more understandable. The approach works. “We have really embraced [cloud services],” he says.

Smith “has achieved a lot,” says Ray Bjorklund, chief knowledge officer at research firm Deltek Information Solutions, who adds that he has been impressed with Smith’s “passion for doing the right thing.”

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