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ICYMI: Politico Panel on GovTech in the Next Administration with U.S. Chief Information Officer, Former Head of 18F & The OpenGov Foundation

“The only thing that can jeopardize the progress made over the last 8 years when this community became [something] and grew up, is for those who created that progress to walk away and then to not have that extended hand to those coming in after.” -Executive Director Seamus Kraft

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WATCH: “Upgrading Washington: Technology in the Next Administration”

On Friday November 18th Politico convened a critical conversation on what it will take to continue upgrading Washington as the next administration takes office. Panelists included Seamus Kraft, Executive Director of The OpenGov Foundation, Tony Scott, U.S. Chief Information Officer, Phaedra Chrousos, Chief Innovation Officer of the Libra Group and recently departed leader of 18F, as well as Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer. The discussion explored the future of President Obama’s signature technology programs and achievements, the new cast of tech and innovation policy influencers, and the broader implications of the recent election for govtech, civic tech and open government efforts across the United States, and globally.

Key Quotes

“Bad software, bad data, bad process– that knows no party affiliation and I think that’s where the new administration starts…The new administration–regardless of how you felt about the election results–needs you just as much as President Obama needed you.” – @FoundOpenGov Executive Director Seamus Kraft

“We will take this baton and hand it off as well as we possibly can. [The President] is committed to the best transition… for the next administration”- @USCTO Megan Smith

“It’s going to be very experimental and very messy in the beginning until you can figure out what works, and once you do then you can take those things and scale them” -@PhaedraChrousos, Libra Group Chief Innovation Officer 

“I know that a lot of people are watching and anxiously awaiting, and me too, but I think it’s a little early to make any prediction about which way things go.” – @TonyScottCIO, U.S. Chief Information Officer

 

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Civic Tech is not just a Democratic Movement –experts

“We’ve got to stay engaged — I don’t think it’s even an option,” U.S. CIO Tony Scott said.

By: Samantha Ehlinger, November 18th, 2016

In the face of continuous rumors and uncertainty around what tech projects and people may last or leave during President-elect Donald Trump’s administration, experts Friday, including U.S. CIO Tony Scott, sought to pitch the Obama administration’s technology progress as non-partisan.

“Some of our biggest supporters and fans have actually been on the Republican side [of Congress] during this administration, so I hope that spirit continues and I expect that it will,” Scott said Friday at a Politico event.

When questioned about staying if he were asked back, Scott said “I think it depends.”

His remarks on the subject seemed to suggest that he might consider it if the administration continues in a similar direction with its technology-related efforts.

“I’m really excited about the momentum that we’ve got going, and if it looks like that’s something that makes sense,” he said. “One way or the other, first you’ve got to be asked — nobody’s asked yet.”

Scott then urged technologists to stay engaged.

“We’ve got to stay engaged — I don’t think it’s even an option,” Scott said. “If you care about our country, if you care about how government works, the credibility of our institutions, government being one of the key ones, you gotta stay engaged in this space, there’s just no backing away I don’t think.”

Phaedra Chrousos, now chief innovation officer of Libra Group and a founder of the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service during her time in government, said people have been asking her for advice on staying or leaving government.

“I’ve been getting a lot of people coming to me and asking ‘Should I stick around?’ And I’ve been telling people, ‘Go where you think you will make the most impact,’” she said. “That’s just my general philosophy.”

But Chrousos also seemed to be preparing the crowd Friday at the Newseum to see some changes. She noted the younger technologists in government move jobs fairly quickly in the private sector, and that mobility is normal and

should be acknowledged.

“We have to remember that this is a younger generation of techies that

move through the ecosystem, through the private sector pretty quickly,” she said. “And they’re going to move through the ecosystem that’s been created now in the civic tech movement. You might get an 18F-er that then goes to [Department of Justice], then the digital service team, or goes to Code For America, or goes to start a civic tech company or work at a civic tech incubator.”

She added: “And I think that we need to realize that’s the reality that we’re faced with, and that we should try and enable that mobility rather than keep people in more traditional structures.”

This movement, she said, isn’t a problem as long as there is continuity in knowledge management, “and you can pass the baton along.”

“I think a fresh set of eyes is always important,” she said. “And I think the more people move around the more they’ll gain a really holistic perspective of the government.”

Chrousos predicted the younger digital transformation government technology community might see some movement, just as the Government Digital Service in the United Kingdom has seen its people move to different ministries, and to state and local governments.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, in remarks later during the event, also seemed to imply that many in the technology community are interested in state and local work.

In response to a questions of whether pitching those in Silicon Valley to work for government would be more difficult during a Trump administration, Smith said: “I think people are open to doing this, and that they’re excited about doing this in all of the different places. You know there’s state and local, there’s Code For America, there’s external open gov, there’s so many organizations now.”

When she was later asked to elaborate specifically on working for a Trump administration, Smith noted many technologist positions were not set up as political positions.

“So these people are excited about the work that they’re doing, they’re committed to it, they’re doing it and so it’s exciting to see them committed into that work,” she said.

Seamus Kraft, executive director of the OpenGov Foundation and a former Republican congressional staffer, noted that this time is “a beautiful opportunity to put the real core values of civic technology and open government gov tech, whatever hashtag you want to put in front of it, to the test.”

He noted that many government technology problems are not tied to a party.

“But bad software, bad data, bad process — that knows no party affiliation, and I think that’s where the new administration starts,” he said. “The biggest risk to the progress going away though, is those who’ve created it, and who are here right now, some of them in this room, walking away right now. And the next administration, no matter how you felt about the election result, needs you just as much as President Obama needed you and called you out.”

He noted that the new administration needs, at a minimum, perspective from past feds so they know what state everything is in.

“I think that a lot of these issues haven’t been on the Trump team’s list,” Kraft admitted, but added, “I do know that there are some good people just starting to get in to place right now, who need to talk to everybody who’s here right now, who’s created these projects.”

The futures of some of those programs, like 18F or the U.S. Digital Service, however, are still uncertain. But Kraft noted that, “The promise of 18F really wasn’t going to be tested until an administration changed.”

It’s worth noting that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently tweeted: “We need to modernize government — programs like @18F and@USDS hold great potential for our country.”

Chrousos mentioned the tweet on Friday: “That was a great sign to all of us that this is a non-partisan issue.”

But when it comes to retaining the workforce, it’s common knowledge that many technologists lean left, and Kraft did acknowledge that the pool of technologists who share common ideologies with the new administration is small. Kraft noted that programs like 18F, USDS and the Sunlight Foundation are slowly removing the need for partisan affiliation in this kind of work.

Chrousos said “people don’t join the Peace Corps because they’re Republican or Democrat, or because Trump’s in office or Obama’s in office.”

“They join because they want to do some good, serve their time,” she said. “And I think we need to get to the point where this is not a Democratic movement — this is a good for government, patriotic movement, regardless

of party affiliation.”

Scott said after talking to “hundreds of people,” what motivates them is “solving big, hard problems.”

“And that’s what gets people up in the morning and gets them going, and to the extent we can work on that problem set, I think you’re going to get the best America has to offer,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a party issue.”

Technologists under the Obama administration have worked on some problems that could be perceived as partisan, but Scott urged people to avoid letting “the micro dominate the macro.”

“We get challenges in Veteran’s Administration, in IRS, in the Department of the Interior,” he said. “I mean there’s no agency of the federal government or anything that it does that isn’t without its challenges. So maybe priorities shift among certain areas, maybe one thing goes away, but there’s tons of other sort of opportunities. So it might be a problem in a micro case but I think in the macro there’s lots of stuff to do.”

And when it comes to what priorities from this administration will continue, Scott noted that nobody has been saying open source or open data efforts should stop.

“I think the question really is, what else on top of that gets done? Or how does the direction shift at all?” he said. “And I don’t think anybody knows that yet. I think it’s a little bit premature to sort of make that call.”

Scott also said the “digitization march is inevitable.”

“And really the only question is: How fast is it gonna go?” he said. “Does this next administration accelerate or not put an emphasis on it? And again I think it’s too early to tell.”

HAPPENING TOMORROW: Politico Panel on Technology and Innovation Policy and Programs in the Next Administration

MEDIA ADVISORY

November 17th, 2016

CONTACTS

Seamus Kraft

seamus@opengovfoundation.org

The OpenGov Foundation’s Executive Director Joins the U.S. CTO, U.S. CIO, Former Head of 18F for Timely Discussion

WASHINGTON, DC (November 17th, 2016)— With election season fresh in our minds, what will technology and innovation policy and programs look like under a Trump Administration?  Tomorrow at 8 AM EST at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., Politico is hosting a timely panel discussion—“Upgrading Washington: Technology in the Next Administration”— to dive into answering this critical question.  

Join Seamus Kraft, Executive Director of The OpenGov Foundation, Tony Scott, U.S. Chief Information Officer, Phaedra Chrousos, Chief Information Officer of the Libra Group and recently departed leader of 18F, as well as Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

The panel will explore the future of President Obama’s signature technology programs and achievements, the new cast of tech and innovation policy influencers, and the broader implications of last Tuesday’s elections for govtech, civic tech and open government efforts across the United States and globally.  The panel will be moderated by Nancy Scola, senior technology reporter at Politico.

The event is open to the public and to the press, and will be webcast live online.  Full details below.  We hope that you will join us in person or virtually.

WHAT: “Upgrading Washington: Technology in the Next Administration” Politico Panel Discussion

WHO: Seamus Kraft, Executive Director of The OpenGov Foundation, Tony Scott, U.S. Chief Information Officer, Phaedra Chrousos, Chief Information Officer of the Libra Group, Megan Smith, Chief Information Officer

WHEN: Friday November 18th, 2016 at 8:00 AM EST

WHERE: The Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

REGISTER: You can register online here.

WEBCAST: Click here to watch the live stream online.

MODERATOR: Nancy Scola, Politico senior technology reporter.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Send your questions, issues to bring up, anything you would like discussed to us on Twitter (@FoundOpenGov and @SeamusKraft), via email (SayHello@opengovfoundation.org) or join the Twitter conversation directly using the hashtag #UpgradingWashington.

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Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited with Aaron Ogle Joining The OpenGov Foundation

“When I was a Navy pilot back there a thousand years ago, flying in the Pacific in 1944, we had a saying that some pilots still use today called CAVU— Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited. That applies to my life today. I’ve been blessed with so many challenges, failed in some, succeeded in others, but ceiling and visibility unlimited, that’s the way I feel about life itself…”

— President George HW Bush, 2008 Bryant University Commencement Address 


By Seamus Kraft

Imagine our democracy as an enormous airplane. It feels like the last few years have been one long stretch of civic turbulence. Everyone feels a little uncertain, unsettled, upset. No party, no place and no organization has had a bump-free ride. That very much includes our team here at The OpenGov Foundation (OGF).

When life tests us, it is how we choose to respond that matters. Like many in the civic tech world, we’ve had to make some very difficult  decisions. We’re scathed, but standing tall. We believe, like President George HW Bush, that the path before us is clear, and the possibilities at hand are unlimited. Each of us is now stronger, more resilient. Our team— from our staff to our board to our partners and advisors— is stronger too, more energized, prepared and committed to our critical mission of helping communities and residents govern better. This airplane belongs to all of us, and everyone in America deserves a voice in where we’re flying.

At The OGF, we’re rebuilding an enormously  important part of this great airship called democracy: our legislatures, from the smallest town to the Chicago City Council to the United States Congress. We’re doing it while airborne. Yet we can’t land. And we definitely can’t crash. But if we’ve learned nothing else during these turbulent times, it is this: building democracy is a massive undertaking— and The OGF can’t do it alone.

Now more than ever, we need to devote more resources to renovating our legislatures. We need more brilliant, curious, kind and creative engineers redesigning and refitting the engines of our democracy, so that together we can restore the rapidly eroding trust eating away at our communities, our country, and ourselves. That’s the real problem, the real source of the turbulence everyone feels. That is a very special problem that calls for a very special kind of engineer.

Aaron Ogle is that special kind of engineer. More importantly, he’s that special kind of person. He is scathed and experienced like we are, and in the best possible way. He’s been grappling with challenges like ours from the day he walked into the first class of Code for America Fellows as a good developer, walking out as a supremely talented civic technologist. From there, Aaron built and led and nurtured great teams of civic-minded technologists, designers, public servants, as Chief Technology Officer of OpenPlans then as Director of Civic Technology for the City of Philadelphia, PA. Remarkably, throughout Aaron has remained not just enthusiastic, but deeply and contagiously passionate about using his gifts to help people lead better, healthier and happier civic lives.

Today, I am honored to announce that he has joined The OGF team as Director of Product. He will be leading The OGF’s product efforts as we create the open, effective and inclusive legislatures we need, with— not for— the real people living and serving and solving real civic problems in real communities across America.

Aaron officially started last Monday. The whole OGF team traveled to his home base of Philadelphia to welcome him for his first two days. We were then on to Chicago for the rest of the week, already back to upgrading the engines of democracy in that fine city alongside our expert co-pilots in City Clerk Susana A. Mendoza’s office and on the Chicago City Council. As the Executive Director, seeing Aaron and our developers jump right in with Team @ChiCityClerk was a joyous, affirming and empowering experience for which I would trade nothing on earth. And this is only the takeoff.

Everyone onboard our democracy— you, your neighbors, your elected officials, everyone— wants these turbulent times transformed into a smoother civic flight. Put another way, everyone has a major stake in the successful transformation of our legislatures into the 21st Century governing institutions we lack, and so sorely need. With Aaron Ogle as part of The OGF family, we’re already closer to turning off the seatbelt signs, free once more to move about the cabin so that America can fly faster and truer into the unimaginably bright, clear and limitless future before us all.

Seamus Kraft is Executive Director and co-founder of The OpenGov Foundation.

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Empowering the Chicago City Council for the Digital Age

Part four of a series examining The OpenGov Foundation’s work with the City of Chicago, City Council and community. Also see: part one, part two, part three.

I am sure you’re familiar with some of the huge challenges facing the great city of Chicago: public safety, education and a looming debt crisis threatening to spread across critical public services. Chicago needs leaders able to confront these problems head on and turn ideas into tangible policies. Unfortunately, the gears of the City Council, and hundreds of other legislatures, are gummed up with paper and a process badly in need of a overhaul for our Digital Age.

At The OpenGov Foundation, where we work to bridge the gap between citizens and government and power lawmaking for modern democracy, we saw an opportunity to build a complete open source operating system for a 21st century municipal legislature – replicable wherever policy is made. We developed a close partnership with Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza and her team, committing to work side-by-side on making the city more efficient and able to serve its residents better.

But when we started work, it wasn’t with software or data, we instead needed to understand the history, culture and systems that exist today. We wanted to walk a mile – or ten – in the shoes of the men and women who make the council run, from the most senior alderman to the newest administrative staffer. Not only do we believe that this is what good partners do, we believe that it would help surface the best possible place to launch this long-term legislative transformation. It’s building with not for.

When we first attended a City Council meeting, it was impossible to ignore the reams of paper schlepped throughout City Hall. We knew all policies start as digital documents when they are written on computers, but we didn’t realize how briefly they exist in that state. Printing, stamping, cover sheets, scanning, formatting and more. It’s only once we witness, record and understand this process that we realize the opportunities. Thousands and thousands of legislative documents follow this inefficient path every year and even small improvements will echo with huge time and cost savings.

The first legislative document type we’re tackling is the humble commemorative resolution, which officially recognize an outstanding achievement, like a victorious youth sports team, or significant milestone, like turning 100, in the lives of Chicagoans. These resolutions are the most straight-forward, least complex pieces of legislation drafted, voted upon by the city council and promulgated to the public. They are regularly created by all 50 aldermen, the Mayor and the City Clerk. Even better, resolutions contain most components included in more intricate kinds of Chicago policy documents – both process and data-wise – but in an easier fashion for a technologist to transform from paper to the digital world.

Transforming these documents into modern open data points offers incredible possibilities for increasing efficiency, effectiveness and citizen engagement throughout the legislative process. Hence, our emerging theory of how to change the culture of government in free societies: data innovation leads to platform innovation leads to policymaking process innovation leads to a government that spends less, serves better and does it all without paying the soul-crushing costs of a paper-based world.

You do not need to be a pundit or a political scientist to see and understand those costs. Alongside the City Clerk’s team, we examined the process of one, non-consequential type of Chicago legislation: commemorative resolutions. In going through the full process, commemorative resolutions go from digital to paper to digital to another type of paper with additional steps where humans manually enter data that once existed digitally. Think about that. Each change of state and re-entered data point means duplicated, wasted effort that happens with every resolution considered by the Council. Here is a simplified view of that process:

Chicago-City-Clerk-Commemorative-Resolution-Process-Visualization

Any change of state is an opportunity for typographic, data entry and other all-too-human errors. This costs precious time and is work that, by and large, simply does not have to happen in the year 2016. Just to move forward in the process, people have to walk paper documents to other parts of City Hall. This is the ultimate cost of our paper-based democracies: needlessly felled forests of trees, wasted human capital, duplicative effort and risks of error-riddled policymaking.

Imagine the possibilities that will open up for the Chicago City Council and the people it serves once this process is digital-first, streamlined and efficient?

Elected officials and staff will be able to spend more precious time helping people, not scanning and retyping and rescanning and worse. Citizens will be able to understand and engage with their government on their own time and on their own terms. Countless more voices will be heard in government.

That is government culture change, guaranteed.


 

This post was originally published on CityMinded.org on June 29, 2016.

Yahoo! News: The Last 100 Days: Obama’s (non)Transparency Edition

The OpenGov Foundation’s Executive Director Seamus Kraft on federal government transparency work left to do during The Obama Administration: “The president ran on an ambitious openness agenda of ‘transparency, public participation and collaboration.’ Eight years later, progress has been made. But it’s pretty clear that in This Town, closed still trumps open.”

Open Legal Data Expert Dr. Anne Washington Joins The OpenGov Foundation’s Board of Advisors

Dr. Washington’s Expertise Critical to Creating 21st Century Legislature that Governs Better Together

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 15th, 2016) — The OpenGov Foundation’s Board of Directors today announced that Dr. Anne L. Washington— one of the world’s foremost experts on open legislative data and lawmaking systems as well as Assistant Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University— is joining The Foundation’s Board of Advisors. Dr. Washington was elected Monday to serve a one-year renewable term to provide critical advice to the foundation’s leadership and engineering teams leading the development of AssemblyWorks, the world’s first open legislative operating system, currently under development in partnership with Chicago City Clerk Susana A. Mendoza and the Chicago City Council.

“From the United States Congress to cutting edge academic research, Dr. Washington is at the center of virtually all successful legislative transformation efforts to date,” said Seamus Kraft, co-founder and Executive Director of The OpenGov Foundation. “I am honored to welcome her to our advisory board; more importantly, it is a joy to call her a mentor and a friend. I can’t wait to get down to the business of building better government with her on board.”

The digital transformation of legislative bodies is often overlooked, yet it is the critical infrastructure of governance,” said Dr. Washington. “For justice to flow like water, we need to build public waterways like an open legislative system. I am thrilled to lend my expertise on open data to support this effort.”

 

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