In the last few months, the White House has initiated a few really interesting programs and initiatives working to transform government through technology. Last month, the administration released the Digital Government Strategy, and is now working to deliver on the strategy.
Last week, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel provided an update on the Digital Government Strategy on the White House Blog. The first update that VanRoekel shares is on the Digital Services Innovation Center, “We’ve established the Digital Services Innovation Center to operationalize the principle of “build once, use many times” by serving as a virtual hub, supported by agencies across government, to incubate and accelerate innovative digital services.”
CIO Steven VanRoekel continues to identify that a team has already been developed within GSA to push the Innovation Center initiative forward, VanRoekel states, “The Innovation Center has been gearing up with a small core team from within the General Services Administration, and will draw on a pool of experts and creative thinkers from across government using temporary staffing arrangements, multi-agency teams, and others with specialized expertise and skills to address rapid turnaround needs.”
VanRoekel continues to cite the development of meetings from representatives of the Federal CIO Council, Federal Web Managers Council (FWMC) and several federal agencies, meeting together to work to develop government-wide best practices and standards for technology, something desperately needed across government, VanRoekel describes this relationship as “The Advisory Group.” VanRoekel states, “The Advisory Group has already begun to work with the CIOC and FWMC on two early deliverables: guidance and best practices on allowing employees to use their personal mobile devices for work (known as “bring-your-own-device”), as well as agency-wide governance models for digital services.”
VanRoekel also identified a few interesting initiatives aimed at bringing America’s best and brightest to work either in partnership or to join the public sector workforce through the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. VanRoekel mentions that there has been substantial interest in the program, as he states, “There has been a groundswell of interest in the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, with 700 applicants for Fellows positions, and over 4,000 people in total expressing interest in following (and contributing to) their progress.”
The Presidential Innovation Fellows program has five projects that launched in 2012, the website states the goal of the project is “To improve the lives of the American people, saving taxpayer money, and fueling job creation. This is innovation aimed at making a difference for all Americans.”
The five projects are MyGov, which the White House briefly describes as, “Reimagine the relationship between the federal government and its citizens through an online footprint developed not just for the people, but also by the people.”
The second program mentioned is, Open Data Initiatives, described as, “Stimulate a rising tide of innovation and entrepreneurship that utilizes government data to create tools that help Americans in numerous ways – e.g., apps and services that help people find the right health care provider, identify the college that provides the best value for their money, save money on electricity bills through smarter shopping, or keep their families safe by knowing which products have been recalled.”
The third is the extremely successful Blue Button Initiative by the VA.The White House states, “Develop apps and create awareness of tools that help individuals get access to their personal health records — current medications and drug allergies, claims and treatment data, and lab reports – that can improve their health and healthcare.”
The fourth initiative looks to reform the RFP process and help small business navigate the federal government. This program is called RFP-EZ and briefly described as, “Build a platform that makes it easier for small high-growth businesses to navigate the federal government, and enables agencies to quickly source low-cost, high-impact information technology solutions.”
The final program of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program is the 20% Campaign, which looks to “Create a system that enables US government programs to seamlessly move from making cash payments to support foreign policy, development assistance, government operations or commercial activities to using electronic payments such as mobile devices, smart cards and other methods.”
All these programs are great steps forward, and it will be interesting to see how they unfold in the coming months. Hopefully, these programs will recruit new talent into the federal space. With fellowship programs, it’s always easy to attract top talent, and but difficult to hold on to the talent once the fellowship ends. I’ll have to explore more about the programs above, but hopefully there are some strategies to make the Fellowship more sustainable to keep the talent within government. Ultimately, I think these are great programs, and great steps forward to reform how government operates.
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