Last week, I put a few thoughts together regarding the newly published Digital Government Strategy. Imagine my surprise when I received a Tweet from Mr. Macon Phillips, White House Director of New Media. Mr. Phillips asked me about my thoughts on a new program called the Presidential Innovation Fellows – MyGov. I have to admit, I felt pretty special being noticed by a man who works in the Executive Office of the President. So, of course, I immediately took the time to read over the program.
Being a person who’s a little hard to impress these days, I have no problem saying that the intent of this program is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. For the past 7-8 years, during my tenure with Adobe and since, I’ve had the opportunity to share my thoughts through various channels and venues on how government could have a significant, positive impact on the lives of most Americans if only government would stop and consider what people really want, how they want it, why they want it, when they want it, where they want it, etc.
So often, citizen interactions with government are complex, tedious, confusing or seemingly not related to the outcome the citizen is seeking to achieve. Generally, this is due to the history of how IT systems have been created throughout the years, typically built from the bottom up, giving the most attention to the technical aspects rather than focusing on what the people using the system are trying to do. Government is not unique in this manner, practically all IT systems have been built this way.
So getting back to the MyGov initiative, this program is intended to reshape the way government and citizens engage by bringing together a team of experts from government, academia and, most importantly in my opinion, ‘regular’ people to represent the citizens of the country. Not that I flatter myself enough to believe I had anything to do with this happening, it seems as though someone was digging around in my notes. I couldn’t have come up with a better plan.
My only criticism, and it is minor in the grand scheme, to become a Fellow, participants must be available on a full-time basis for 6 months. While I understand the requirement, this limitation may preclude direct and active participation from those outside government and academia who may have a harder time getting the time away from their job. In my travels over the years, I have come across many extremely talented ‘engagement designers’ who could contribute significantly if there was a part time role as well.
Anyway, regardless of the fact that I recently started in a new role, I intend to apply to become a Presidential Innovation Fellow. I believe in this initiative and think it is important enough to put my personal career on hold should I be honored with a spot on the team.
Mr. Phillips, thank you for bringing this to my attention. And, thank you to all those in government who have lent a hand in creating this program.