Mary Scott Nabers is President and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., where this article originally published. Mary Scott Nabers has decades of experience working in the public-private sector, and a well-recognized expert in the P3 and government contracting fields.
Large governmental agencies remind me of huge ships that change course slowly and methodically. It is easier not to make course changes, but often outside forces make it necessary. That’s what is happening throughout government today. Technology, higher expectations, global competition and reduced funding all contribute to the need for significant changes.
The federal government’s Office of Management and Budget has mandated that federal agencies develop digital service offices to address long-standing challenges with citizen-facing interactions. Citizens want to interact with government via the Internet and few governmental entities were moving quickly enough to meet the demand – thus the mandate.
To help meet an October deadline, a number of private-sector tech firms have stepped in to collaborate with public officials. The team – aptly named TechAvengers – includes tech experts from private-sector giants like Google, Twitter and Apple. Many of them were also involved with helping to fix HealthCare.gov in 10 weeks. The group is now working to establish standards that will bring government digital services in line with the best commercial services. The result should be an abundance of new citizen-facing applications.
Another program at the federal level is also built on technology collaboration. The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) Program works to help modernize government through technology. And, the fellows, selected from the private sector, stay only for one year. This program incorporates the principles, values and practices of the innovation economy. The idea is to pair talented technologists, innovators and change-agents with top civil servants at the highest levels of government to deliver efficiency, innovation and cost savings to critical services.
It’s good to see these types of collaboration at the federal level…but, collaboration and assistance are also needed at the local levels of government. Tech leaders say they are focused heavily on ways to help local governments. They see the need and understand that the public impact will be quicker and greater at the local levels of government. However, there are so many more agencies, jurisdictions, laws, procedures and protocols – it is not an easy task. Federal agencies also have more funds and can attract outside expertise more easily.
It’s possible that innovation occurring at the federal level will trickle down to the local levels of government. That is a hope shared by many. With reduced funding, increased responsibilities, population growth and global competition also impacting public servants at the local levels, the need for private-sector expertise and collaborative efforts is great.