Inside the Transition: Technology, Innovation and Government

The Technology, Innovation and Government Reform Team, affectionately known as the TIG-R team, is attempting to make government institutions more effective. We have individuals from large innovative companies including Goggle and Microsoft and IBM; we have individuals from companies that have strong federal consulting experience. We have some veterans who’ve been doing this kind of policy, been in the policy trenches, and we have some people who have really been in it for just a couple of years but bring tremendous enthusiasm, creativity. I’m the chief technology officer for the District of Columbia. I’ve got 86 agencies that I’m responsible for when it comes to technology, driving both policy and operations.
One of the biggest problems in the federal government is that process has trumped outcome and the biggest reason for that is everybody’s focused on compliance; nobody’s thinking about innovation and how to drive change within the
government. The federal government is way, way behind in terms of of how it disseminates information, how it interacts with its citizens. Technology can help make the delivery of services much more effective and efficient in terms of providing benefits, in terms of tracking progress, in terms of providing transparency to the public about the performance of programs. Have you seen this yet? It’s actually pretty cool. So what we’ve done is to launch this project of creating a citizen’s briefing book to really create a mechanism via the web that will allow people to add their proposals to those suggestions that will be delivered to the incoming cabinet heads, agency heads, and to the President-elect himself so that we’re sure to get the best ideas for the beginning of the administration. One of the most obvious ways to make the government more open is to take data that the taxpayers have paid for and get it up on the web so that they can download it, look at it, and do something to it which in internet terminology is called “mashing it
up.” In other words, you take data like let’s say crime statistics or home values or election returns and you put it onto a web platform like let’s say “maps” and so with the benefit of the map plus a lot of government data you can actually help citizens understand their world better. You can even drive economic activity and allow people to build businesses. If you look at what happened with the human genome project with the National Institutes of Health and other world bodies that decided to take the Human Genome Project and move it to the public
domain as quickly as possible and as a result getting a massive explosion in scientific discovery, and if you look at the FDA and the drug supply
chain, a huge pipeline of over 500 drugs. One of the most important transformations that the federal government is going to go through in the next decade is a shift to what is called “Cloud Computing”. Cloud Computing is basically treating computing storage and processing like a commodity – like water or
electricity – and allowing people to build applications on top of the infrastructure in a very flexible, very open, very powerful way. This is an important change for the federal government because it is dramatically cheaper than the old-fashioned way of doing computing infrastructure. Working together as, let’s say, a federal advisory
committee, you can do that sort of thing up on the web in a way which is much easier than it would be if you had to download an application and use the telephone and meet face to face in order to get your work done. I think you’re going to see a lot more experimentation across the federal government and a lot more implementation of these kinds of tools that are really commonplace on the web right now. When you look at how we lower the cost of government operations, a federal government budget of 70 billion dollars representing approximately 20% of the tech economy, why is it that we can’t innovate and find better ways of bringing services, lowering the cost of government operations and driving transparency? And those are the things that you’re going to see in this administration.

Maurice Vega

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