White House Innovation Fellows Tackle Federal IT Projects

Innovation Fellows program aims to improve access to health records, make it easier for start-ups to do business with the feds, create a one-stop federal website, and more.
Defense Robots: Fast, Flexible, And Tough
Defense Robots: Fast, Flexible, And Tough
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The White House Wednesday named a group of 18 Presidential Innovation Fellows to work for the next six months on five "high impact" federal IT projects, including one that will allow for easy download of personal healthcare information from the Internet and another that aims to make it easier for government to do business with start-ups.

It the latest in a string of federal programs that during the last two years has brought private sector workers into the government to work on short, discrete projects that aim to make government more efficient and deliver better public services.

Participants in the Innovation Fellows Program, which was announced by the White House in May 2012, will work in groups in the mode of several small start-ups to develop deliverables on five projects sponsored by different agencies. The program received nearly 700 applicants for the 18 fellowships, a response that Office of Personnel Management director John Berry called "amazing" during a White House event to introduce the fellows.

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The projects include:

Blue Button for America: This project will aim to expand the Department of Veterans Affairs' Blue Button program, which currently allows military vets and Medicare recipients to easily and securely download their personal healthcare records, to the general public. Other agencies have begun to adopt Blue Button, and the fellowship effort hopes to push implementation even further.

RFP-EZ: The RFP-EZ team will create an online marketplace to simplify the ability for tech startups to do business with the government. "The traditional RFP process is three lifetimes of a typical start-up," Sean Green, associate administrator for investment and special advisor for innovation at the Small Business Administration, said at the White House event. "Startups don't have dedicated teams to deal with the federal procurement process."

MyGov: The MyGov program will build a prototype personalized federal government website to allow citizens and others to access the information they need from the federal government, when they need it, and how they need it, without having to sift through the government's more than 1,200 different websites to find what they need.

The 20% Initiative: The 20% Initiative, led by the United States Agency for International Development aims to convert international development assistance payments to subcontractors from cash to electronic payments in order to reduce transaction costs and corruption in the developing world.

Open Data Initiatives: The Open Data initiative, which includes multiple component parts, will be a series of new efforts to unlock valuable government data in several areas, including health, energy, and education. This effort is in many ways a spin-off of the Obama administration's Open Government Initiative.

The fellows include an array of software engineers and entrepreneurs, including open government advocate and former Sunlight Labs director Clay Johnson, serial entrepreneur and PlaySpan founder Karl Mehta, and numerous others.

Cybersecurity, continuity planning, and data records management top the list in our latest Federal IT Priorities Survey. Also in the new, all-digital Focus On The Foundation issue of InformationWeek Government: The FBI's next-gen digital case management system, Sentinel, is finally up and running. (Free registration required.)