Disrupt isn’t just a great launch platform for startups. Earlier this week at TechCrunch Disrupt New York, President Obama’s senior technology advisor, Todd Park and U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel announced five new federal initiatives to get entrepreneurs and other innovators to work on the White House’s new digital road map for open government. Within the 24 hours after the announcement at Disrupt on Wednesday, Park told O’Reilly’s Alexander B. Howard earlier today, the White House received 600 applications for the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and “another several hundred people had expressed interest in following and engaging in the five projects in some other capacity.”
The program is looking for 15 “amazing innovators” who are interested in coming to Washington, DC for 6- to 12-month fellowships. They will work in small teams focused on the five project’s Park and VanRoekel announced earlier this week: MyGov, Open Data Initiatives, Blue Button for America, RFP-EZ and The 20% Campaign. The scope of these projects was chosen so the teams can “deliver significant results within six months.”
Here is how our own Gregory Ferenstein described these initiatives earlier this week:
1. Expand the one-click download program of “Blue Button” to energy, education, security, and the nonprofit sector. Blue Button was an early open data initiative from Park’s previous job at HHS to allow federal medical recipients (Department of Defense, Veterans, and Medicare) to access their health information in an easy, one-click process for use with all of their doctors. A relevant recent extension of Blue Button for energy, “Green Button,” is already in use by iPhone app makers to give homeowners feedback on their energy use. Additional energy info will be coming soon in the hopes that savvy entrepreneurs can make profitable, socially-beneficial use of the new data.
2. Expand Blue Button itself to private sector insurance companies. Right now, only federal beneficiaries have access to the data, yet many Americans would also like an easy way to track their medical history and share relevant results between doctors.
3. A PayPal for foreign aid, the “20% Campaign.” The federal government has a nasty habit of losing crates of cash and foreign aid while paying security forces and contract workers in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Park and VanRoekel hope the new system can better track the money trail, and therefore reduce waste, fraud, and abuse. One study suggests that India could save billions with electronic transfers, and the savings could be just as significant for the U.S.
4. A small-business friendly process for securing government contracts, named RFP-EZ. Don’t have a DC-bureau or a cushy relationship with a senator? This program aims to give the small guy a shot at big contracts. Park argued in his talk that the government sometimes prefers savvy startups in Silicon Valley, who can save the government a lot more than the typical contractor.
5. MyGov, a user-friendly website to find government services. Currently, government services are organized by government need, not citizen, making many services difficult to find.