Yes, there are Lean Startups even in the United States federal government. I know this is an unpopular thing to say, since it sounds so patently absurd. But I've seen the teams with my own eyes and witnessed their results first hand. For my take on how this is possible, you can see my previous post on Lean Government here. Today, I'm excited to share the latest round of startups that are being run by the Presidential Innovation Fellows program. If you'd like to try your hand at being an entrepreneur inside one of the world's largest bureaucracies, you can apply right here starting today.
I've excerpted descriptions of the program and summaries of all the projects below. Take a look and judge for yourself.
The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program pairs top innovators from the private sector, non-profits, and academia with top innovators in government to collaborate during focused 6-12 month “tours of duty” to develop solutions that can save lives, save taxpayer money, and fuel job creation. Each team of innovators is supported by a broader community of interested citizens throughout the country.
The 1st round of five projects – MyUSA (formerly known as MyGov), RFP-EZ, Blue Button, Better Than Cash, and Open Data Initiatives – launched in August 2012 with 18 inaugural Fellows. Each of these five project teams have made remarkable progress.
The 2nd round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program will include nine projects, described below – four that are the second phases of Round 1 projects and five new projects. Presidential Innovation Fellows have a unique opportunity to serve our Nation and make an impact on a truly massive scale. We will be accepting applications to be a Round 2 Fellow from February 5 through March 17, and are looking to put together a dynamic, diverse, innovative class that will produce tremendous results for the American people.
- WhiteHouse.gov/InnovationFellows has information about the program, past PIFs, and will serve as the gateway through which to apply (just click on the “Apply Here” button starting February 5th)
- Those interested can follow @WhiteHouseOSTP on Twitter and can discuss the program on social media using: #InnovateGov
- Applications to be a Round 2 Fellow will be accepted through March 17th
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.
During an emergency or natural disaster, it is essential that first responders, government agencies, volunteers, the private sector, and the public have access to real-time information about the critical needs of survivors and resources that can help them. The goals of the Disaster Response & Recovery project are to: (1) identify information critical to saving lives and mitigating damage in a disaster; (2) identify existing and new tools to be built and deployed that can collect, synthesize and distribute that information; and (3) build out these tools and train disaster response personnel in their use.
Once these tools are built and rolled out, they can be used collaboratively by the private sector, first responders, local officials, volunteers, and survivors themselves in order to get information where it needs to be in real-time. 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.
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.
MyUSA (formerly known as MyGov) is creating a new service that helps Americans find the information and services they need across the Federal Government. Rather than organizing services around the agencies that deliver them, as most Federal websites do today, MyUSA organizes services around people and the specific tasks they need to complete. Building on the work of the inaugural class of MyUSA Presidential Innovation Fellows, motivated by President Obama's call for a smarter, leaner government, and inspired by innovative models of collaboration in the private sector, the US Chief Technology Officer, the US Chief Information Officer, and the White House Director of Digital Strategy will work closely with and support the Round 2 MyUSA Fellows as they take the MyUSA service to the next level.
In particular, small businesses and exporters have a fundamental problem navigating the Federal Government’s myriad resources. It can be difficult to locate information about government assistance programs or find and complete the correct forms for taxes or business operations. MyUSA is working to solve these problems. The project team will build and beta-test new features and tools for entrepreneurs and businesses with the purpose of cutting red tape, increasing efficiency, and supporting American businesses and American jobs.
MyUSA will save people and businesses time when transacting with the government, increase awareness of available government services, and speed up notifications and updates. MyUSA has the potential not only to save Americans time and money, but to reshape how they interact with and view their government.
@ProjectMyUSA on Twitter.
@ProjectMyUSA on Twitter.
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.
RFP-EZ improves the operations of government by making it easier for small businesses to sell their services to government buyers, and by making it easier for contracting officers within government to navigate the process of purchasing. In Round 1 of the PIF program, the RFP-EZ team opened the door to small businesses by building a platform for small, creative businesses to more effectively sell to the Federal Government. The objective of the RFP-EZ 2.0 team is to improve upon the existing product and scale the tool across additional government agencies so that fewer taxpayer dollars are spent getting the technology that government needs to do its work for the American people.
As RFP-EZ is tested and scaled, a new effort will be launched to improve Federal procurement by building a portal of prices paid by agencies under their contracts. Improved information sharing, both within and between agencies, about prices paid for common-use goods and services will make it easier for agencies to find “best in class” spending options. More informed decision making promises to help save substantial amounts of money each year by pooling resources in the vehicles that offer the best value for the taxpayer.
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.
The emerging “industrial Internet” revolution, enabled by the convergence of networking and information technology with engineered physical systems and associated services, is enabling a new generation of “smart systems” and an innovation-based growth engine for the U.S. economy in a broad range of industries including manufacturing, transportation, energy, healthcare, defense, agriculture, and emergency response. These cyber-physical systems (CPS) will combine distributed sensing, monitoring, actuation, and control networks with interoperable systems integration, advanced analytics, and user interfaces featuring customized degrees of autonomy to enable adaptive, predictive, and collaborative optimization of system performance over the entire life cycle of a device (e.g. design, build, operate/use, maintain, and service). 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.
Realizing this potential will require partnerships between industry and government to develop a framework and best practices for cyber-physical-systems platform technologies that include integrated architectures, standards and protocols, advanced analytics, evaluation testbeds, and reference implementations to ensure such systems perform reliably, correctly, safely and securely. These platform technologies will leverage advances in control systems and process engineering, big data and cloud computing, broadband communications, and cybersecurity.
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 Open Data Initiatives project is “liberating” government data and voluntarily-contributed corporate data to fuel entrepreneurship, create jobs, and improve the lives of Americans in tangible ways. As a model, decades ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began making weather data available for free electronic download by anyone. Entrepreneurs used these data to create weather newscasts, websites, mobile applications, insurance, and much more. Similarly, the government’s decision to make the Global Positioning System (GPS) freely available has fueled a vast array of private-sector innovations ranging from navigation systems to precision crop farming, creating massive public benefit and contributing significantly to economic growth. More recently, the Health Data Initiative, launched by the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010, has opened growing amounts of health-related knowledge and information in computer-readable form from the vaults of the government and publicized the availability of these data to entrepreneurs and innovators. Hundreds of companies and nonprofits have used these data to develop new products and services that are helping millions of Americans and creating jobs of the future in the process.
Working closely with the US Chief Technology Officer, the US Chief Information Officer, and an array of agencies, the Open Data Initiatives team has launched and is continuing to scale open data efforts in Health, Energy, Education, Finance, Public Safety, and Global Development. These efforts involve government releasing general data resources in computer-readable form and in accordance with policies that rigorously protect privacy. The goal is to stimulate a rising tide of private-sector entrepreneurship that leverages these data to create tools that help Americans find the right health care provider for them, identify the college that provides the best value for their money, save money on their electricity bills through smarter shopping for the right rate plan, keep their families safe by knowing which products have been recalled, and much more – a rising tide of innovation that also contributes to economic growth and creates jobs.
@ProjectOpenData on Twitter.
For Round 2, we are looking for Presidential Innovation Fellows to work on the existing Open Data Initiatives in Health, Energy, Education, Finance, Public Safety, and Global Development, as well as the following new data innovation efforts:
Building Virtual Learning at National Scale
Harness new techniques in big data and learning analytics to help students master core academic subjects such as math and science.
Digital Tools for the Smithsonian
Develop new ways for the Smithsonian Institution to engage in the historic effort to make its unparalleled collections in science, history, art, and culture more open and available to the American public – from researchers to schoolchildren and everyone in between.
Build upon the success of Data.gov (launched in 2009) – and recent improvements such as Alpha.Data.gov – to create an optimal hub for the growing open data work of the Federal Government.
@USDataGov on Twitter.
Empowering the American people with secure access to their own personal health, energy, and education data.
The MyData Initiatives seek to spread the ability for people to securely access to their own data while spurring the growth of private-sector applications and services that a person can use to crunch his or her own data for a growing array of useful purposes.
Existing MyData Initiatives are paving the way. For example, through Blue Button – a growing initiative across the public and private sectors – patients can download their own health information from a growing array of organizations (the Department of Veterans Affairs’s health system, private-sector health care providers, etc.) and securely share their medical histories with caregivers, import their prescription histories into mobile reminder apps, and more. Similarly, the Green Button team at the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology is working collaboratively with industry to enable millions of residential and commercial energy customers to securely download their own energy usage data in a standardized machine-readable format directly from their utilities. The MyData Initiative at the U.S. Department of Education is empowering learners of all ages in hundreds of school districts to access machine-readable copies of their academic transcripts and student loan/grant histories, including their own Federal student loan and FAFSA data.
The Round 2 MyData team will work with public sector and private sector organizations to continue to expand the ability for Americans to securely and privately access their own data from wherever it might be, and encourage the development of private-sector tools and services that help people utilize their own data for their own benefit.
@ProjectBlueBtn on Twitter.
Developing an innovation toolkit that empowers our Federal workforce to respond to national priorities more quickly and more efficiently.
Inspired by President Obama’s pledge to “make government cool again,” the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in connection with the General Services Administration and the U.S. Department of State, will lead an effort to apply technology to augment and tap into the skills, creativity, and capacity for innovation of the Federal workforce. There are a variety of ways the Federal Government can improve the efficiency and productivity of its talented people – by connecting employees through an intuitive online collaboration platform, by providing opportunities for online learning and skills sharing (particularly since 85% of the Federal workforce is located outside of the Washington, DC metro area), and by offering dynamic libraries of case studies, guides, and “how to” documents – an “innovation toolkit” – for employees looking to think out-of-the-box without having to reinvent the wheel. Using these and other tools, we can deliver on President Obama’s call for a smarter, leaner government and enable the Federal workforce to deliver greater value to the American taxpayer by saving time, money, and resources.
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 Federal Government has traditionally approached new financial system implementations by focusing on implementing commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) packages and adapting them to agency-specific needs. This approach has resulted in many cost and schedule over-runs, aborted implementations, and overly complex systems that are not used to their full potential. The Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation (FIT) are charting a new course for Financial Systems focused on using shared services, standardized requirements, and fewer agency-specific tweaks. The 21st Century Financial Systems project is focused on designing and building an evidence-based “test” that Treasury will use to ensure agencies don’t put out over-engineered requirements. The key to this effort will be designing and implementing a credible and efficient process to determine which agency deviations from a standard set of requirements are truly required and what would be the best way to accommodate those deviations. 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.
Great ideas and breakthrough solutions come from all kinds of different places, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has recently pioneered a competitive method for sourcing and scaling innovations to drive faster, more cost effective, and more reliable results. It uses staged financing to make small investments in promising approaches and technologies and larger investments when there is clear evidence that the method is producing significant results. It accepts proposals from startup or established businesses, social enterprises, academic institutions or non-profits, both domestically and internationally. Over 2000 proposals have been reviewed and over 40 investments made across the world in a wide range of sectors, with many more under negotiation.
Building on this innovative approach to government financing, there are opportunities to scale this effort to reach millions of people more quickly and ensure that the program structure is sustainable (through either profitability or host country adoption, not long-term donor support). Of particular interest would be supporting enterprises that are scaling through the private sector. In addition, there is a desire among domestic Federal Government agencies to optimize the use of taxpayer resources and further their missions by adapting this model of broad competitions and tiered funding for additional missions, to produce the most cost-effective, evidence-based, and scalable solutions.USAID.gov, and @DIVatUSAID on Twitter.