White House Announces Round Two of the Presidential Innovation Fellows

The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program, launched last year, bringing in talented individuals from the private sector, to Washington DC for 6-12 month “tours of duty” in the Federal Government, to develop innovative solutions to our governments most difficult problems.

Today the United States CTO Todd Park and CIO Steve VanRoekel announced round two of the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program. The first round of PIF projects included MyUSA (formerly known as MyGov), RFP-EZ, Blue Button, Better Than Cash, and Open Data Initiatives started in August 2012 with 18 inaugural Fellows.

I had the pleasure to be invited in October to spend half a day talking to a group of the fellows, and help make sure they had an awareness of the API space, empowering the group to make the biggest impact possible. Last week when I was in DC, I also got to speak with a couple of the fellows as they were finishing up their tour of duty, and beginning to think about what is next.

The second round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows will tackle the following initiatives:

  • 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
  • MyUSA - 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
  • 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
  • Cyber-Physical Systems - 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
  • MyData Initiatives - Empowering the American people with secure access to their own personal health, energy, and education data
  • Innovation Toolkit - Developing an innovation toolkit that empowers our Federal workforce to respond to national priorities more quickly and more efficiently
  • 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
  • Development Innovation Ventures - Enabling the US government to identify, test, and scale breakthrough solutions to the world’s toughest problems

The Presidential Innovation Fellows will also continue work on the Open Data Initiatives, which will accelerate and expand 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 will continue work on existing projects including health, energy, education, finance and public safety and global development, while also tackling new data innovation efforts including Building Virtual Learning at National Scale, Digital Tools for the Smithsonian and work on next iteration of Data.gov.

The Presidential Innovation Fellows programs represents an agile new approach to government, mimicking the same partnership it took to build the Internet over the last 30 years, through a partnership between government and the private sector. This approach is about tackling big problems, using open software and open data approaches to a government that is not just open, but machine readable by default.

Its great to see the White House not miss a beat, with kicking off the second round of PIF. Iniatives within the program are addressing some of the most important areas of our society and economy like education and healthcare, while also paying attention to innovative areas like physical hardware systems, new approaches to financial systems and applying technology intelligently through disaster response and recovery.

I’m excited to evaluate more of what was accomplished in round one, and closely track who is accepted into the program for round two. I think the program has the potential to help fix some serious illnesses with open, transparency and lack of machine readable data from government agencies. My only addition to the program would be another tier of volunteers called Presidential Innovation Corps, where talented individuals who did not make it as fellows could still be put to use for other smaller initiatives and crowdsourcing opportunities--this group represents a lot of excitement, passion and talent, and with the pool growing in round two it represents a large group of eager citizens not being put to use.

If you believe in APIs, and believe they can transform how our government operates, I encourage you to apply for the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, and potentially participate in some serious change for our country.