Round 2 of the Presidential Innovation Fellows Program

“We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government.”President Barack Obama, January 21st, 2013

 “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.  My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”  –President John F. Kennedy, January 20th , 1961

Over fifty years after President Kennedy rallied Americans to commit themselves to active citizenry, the Obama Administration (@WhiteHouseOSTP and #InnovateGov) issued another call for civic innovation, as the application process for the second round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program begins .

The program, originally launched in August of 2012, draws private-sector innovators from a wide array of fields into government agencies and challenges them to help improve government efficiency, increase taxpayer savings, aid public health and safety, and spur job creation. Lasting from six months to a year, the PIF program encourages broader participation from interested citizens to address national challenges on a broader scale than is generally possible in the private sector. By widening the net of potential government problem solvers, the PIF program aims to leverage the talents of uniquely capable field experts, entrepreneurs, academics, and engaged citizens to work toward specific goals and increase the innovative capacity of the government more generally.

US Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and US Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel are seeking “a dynamic, diverse, innovative class that will produce tremendous results for the American people.” The application process is open and will run until March 17th. While successful candidates are likely to have some combination of technology skills and entrepreneurial experience, the administration has not set any concrete qualification requirements beyond a willingness to relocate to the capital for at least part of the 6 to 12 month “tour of duty.” For more information on the program and to apply, visit the administration’s Innovation Fellows website.

The first round of the program launched with 18 inaugural Fellows working on five projects: MyGov, RFP-EZ, Blue Button, Better Than Cash and Open Data Initiatives.  As we described earlier, each project made significant advances toward addressing current government deficiencies, and four of these projects are being further built upon in the second round of the program. In addition, five new projects have been approved. The nine total projects that accepted Fellows will work on are:


MyUSA (formerly MyGov)

“Simplifying the process of finding and accessing information and government services that are right for you. Helping American businesses access the information and services that will help them grow, hire American workers and export to foreign markets.”

By giving small businesses and exporters an improved means for navigating the wide array of federal resources available to them—including information about government assistance programs and business operations, as well as confusing tax forms—MyUSA aims to cut red tape, increase efficiency, support American businesses and create American jobs. The administration believes that MyUSA “has the potential not only to save Americans time and money, but to reshape how they interact with and view their government.”


RFP-EZ and Innovative Contracting Tools

“Making it easier for the government to do business with small, high-growth tech companies, and enabling the government to buy better, lower-cost tech solutions from the full range of American businesses.”

In addition to testing and scaling the original RFP-EZ program, a new Federal procurement portal will be launched supplying information about prices paid by government agencies. The portal will allow for “improved information sharing, both within and between agencies, about prices paid for common-use goods and services” and “will make it easier for agencies to find ‘best in class’ spending options.” Agencies’ ability to make more informed spending decisions will simultaneously help to save taxpayer money and help smaller businesses gain previously unattainable government contracts.

MyData Initiatives (an expansion of the Blue Button project)

“Empowering the American people with secure access to their own personal health, energy, and education data.”

The MyData Initiatives will span a number of government agencies and draw in private-sector stakeholders to help give citizens greater control of their personal information. The central goals of MyData’s second round are expanding “the ability for Americans to securely and privately access their own data from wherever it might be,” and “encouraging the development of private-sector tools and services to help people utilize their own data for their own benefit.”


Open Data Initiatives

“Accelerating and expanding efforts to make government information resources more publicly accessible in “computer-readable” form and spurring the use of those data by entrepreneurs as fuel for the creation of new products, services, and jobs.”

The second round of Open Data Initiatives will seek to expand on existing efforts in Health, Energy, Education, Finance, Public Safety and Global Development, as well as three new projects: building virtual learning at national scale, developing digital tools for engaging with the Smithsonian and optimizing the federal data portal,

 New Projects

Disaster Response & Recovery

“Collaboratively building and ‘pre-positioning’ needed tech tools ahead of future emergencies or natural disasters in order to mitigate economic damage and save lives.”

The project’s ultimate goal is the creation of tools that can be used collaboratively by the private sector, first responders, local officials, volunteers and disaster survivors to ensure that real-time information is available to those who need it most. “This improved ability to collect and disseminate information will support disaster response and recovery efforts for years to come. The potential savings—in terms of both American lives and taxpayer dollars—are dramatic.

Cyber-Physical Systems

“Working with government and industry to create standards for a new generation of interoperable, dynamic, and efficient ‘smart systems’—an ‘industrial Internet’— that combines distributed sensing, control, and data analytics to help grow new high-value American jobs and the economy.”

This highly technical collaboration between the public and private sectors will attempt to create smart systems that can become innovation-based growth engines for industries including manufacturing, transportation, energy, healthcare, defense, agriculture and emergency response. The administration believes that, “These innovations could lead to entirely new markets and platforms for growth in the economy, increase U.S. competitiveness, catalyze the creation and retention of U.S. jobs, enable cost-effective renewable clean energy, enhance national security, and help support affordable health care and improved quality of life for our citizens.”


Innovation Toolkit

“Developing an innovation toolkit that empowers our Federal workforce to respond to national priorities more quickly and more efficiently.”

In the interest of creating a smarter, leaner government, the goal of an innovation toolkit is to “tap into the skills, creativity and capacity for innovation” of those already a part of the Federal workforce. “By offering dynamic libraries of case studies, guides, and ‘how to’ documents,” government agencies can help their employees “deliver greater value to the American taxpayer by saving time, money, and resources,” while simultaneously creating a more innovative public sector.


21st Century Financial Systems

“Moving financial accounting systems of Federal agencies out of the era of unwieldy agency-specific implementations to one that favors more nimble, modular, scalable, and cost-effective approaches.”

The Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation (FIT) are working toward financial systems defined by “shared services, standardized requirements, and fewer agency-specific tweaks.” To achieve this goal, the 21st Century Financial Systems project will design and build “an evidence-based ‘test’ that Treasury will use to ensure agencies don’t put out over-engineered requirements.” In addition to cutting back confusion and red tape, “the success of this program could lead to dramatic and lasting cost savings on behalf of American taxpayers.”


Development Innovation Ventures

“Enabling the US government to identify, test, and scale breakthrough solutions to the world’s toughest problems.” 

Building on the US Agency for International Development’s staged financing program for proposals from the private sector, social enterprises, academic institutions and non-profits—which allows the agency to make small investments in promising solutions and larger investments in programs with clear evidence of significant results—the Development Innovation Ventures project aims to create a sustainable, scalable structure for solving major problems through the intelligent use of taxpayer money on broad competitions and tiered-funding programs.

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