The Federal government has had a lot of catching up to do in the technology space over the past few years. Prior to the current administration, the U.S. had no Chief Technology officer, no Chief Information Officer, no comprehensive strategy for international cyber policy, no unified set of goals for broadband infrastructure – and a West Wing full of ancient computers and obsolete software.
Equally worrying was a true tech talent gap: technologists and entrepreneurs didn’t understand the needs of their government, or the opportunities for innovation within it. The civil service wasn’t welcoming, the procurement process was byzantine, and outreach from government leaders to the tech community minimal.
Last Thursday, though, the Obama administration took an important step towards lowering these cultural and practical barriers with the launch of its new Presidential Innovation Fellows Program, which invites a small group of top tech talents to spend six months embedded on a set of projects across the federal government. These 18 fellows will inject entrepreneurial vitality into their tasks – and we’re proud to announce that IFE Intern Adam Becker has been chosen as one of them.
Though a talented software developer and technologist, Adam is no stranger to civic engagement: he and fellow IFE Intern Nick Gaines launched their political startup GovHub last year, which aims to transform local politics by giving citizens easy access to information about who represents them, details on what they’ve done, and a space to engage their fellow community members. IFE hosted a brief presentation and lively Q&A on the goals and state of GovHub earlier this year, and we are pleased to see its creators recognized at the highest level.
As a Fellow, Adam will be part of the team creating RFP-EZ, a new program with the goal of creating tools to help small businesses contract with the federal government. This is no small task: the federal procurement process can be hugely complex, and many companies have entire teams devoted to navigating it. But the dividends of repairing the system could be immense for government and small businesses alike: at the Innovation Fellows launch last Thursday, the Small Business Administration’s Sean Greene told a story of a division within the Department of Health and Human Services struggling to find space in its budget for a necessary technology infrastructure project that it estimated would cost $5 million – until it found an innovative tech startup able to do it differently for around $400,000.
That’s the sort of success Adam Becker will be looking to replicate and scale with RFP-EZ, and the sort of success the Presidential Innovation Fellows program will be looking to replicate across the federal government. The Institute for Education wishes Adam and his team luck as they embark on this important project.