Today, the White House has opened up applications for the second round of the Presidential Innovation Fellowship (PIF): whitehouse.gov/innovationfellows
Just this past Friday, I had the chance to catch up with a number of the first set of “PIFs” as they are called. Clay Johnson, Adam Becker, and Ryan Panchadsaram came by the CfA office last week to share a bit about their experience and what they accomplished. Clay and Adam focused on that little thing called procurement; what they learned was that a big need wasn’t just a change in the rules and processes, but also just simpler, easier, and better software for the officials and companies going through the procurement process. So they built RFP-EZ. The app on the surface is just a marketplace for posting and bidding on government technology contracts — which, to be fair, is useful enough — but on the backend, they have built a set of tailored and interesting tools to change the way in which the contracts themselves are written. That’s the kind of systems change that can have a long-term impact. As one of a couple of projects, Ryan and his team worked on the Blue Button initiative, which is trying to change fundamentally the way healthcare data is accessed. When I talked to him, I learned something (that’s probably obvious to most): it’s not the government that has the dearth of useful healthcare data, it is the hospitals and insurance providers. So the government has the particular challenge for motivating, encouraging, and nudging private sector partners to adopt a common standard to promote interoperability. And they are proving to be remarkably good at it. That’s government working as a platform.
And those were just two of the projects from the first Presidential Innovation Fellow Round.
They’ve planned nine more endeavors for part two, with projects, ranging from disaster recovery to cyber-physical systems. (The latter should be particularly interesting…)
I for one am excited to see what they accomplish. The PIF program, led by CTO Todd Park and CIO Steve VanRoekel, is set up in an interesting way where individuals in the relevant departments really have to want the project — in fact, they propose and shepherd it through. That means that the PIFs aren’t the only change agents, so are the individuals already in the agencies themselves. And that’s what excited me most about seeing the program grow and sustain. Not only are more technologists stepping up for public service (and you should too), but they are working collaboratively and side-to-side with passionate change agents inside government to make a real and lasting impact. And that’s what matters.
Applications close on March 17; apply now: whitehouse.gov/innovationfellows.
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