Government

To the Next Administration: Use Tech to Implement Every Program

shutterstock_216021430In preparation for our upcoming Techonomy 2016 conference, Nov. 9-11 (starting the day after the election) we asked speakers and attendees to answer this question: “What is the most important tech-related issue the incoming administration should tackle?” The answer we got from tech thinker, publisher, investor and entrepreneur Tim O’Reilly was so interesting we decided to publish it now.

 

The most important tech issue that the next administration should tackle is how to actually implement its programs! So often government programs fail to achieve their objectives because they are poorly implemented, not because they have the wrong goals.

As the Mark Zuckerberg character said in the movie The Social Network, speaking of the Winkelvoss twins, “If they had built Facebook, they would have built Facebook.” The difference between the vague idea of a social network and the one that became Facebook is all in the implementation!

Great implementation is what distinguishes the winners from the losers in Silicon Valley. And increasingly it’s also what distinguishes government programs that have an impact from those that don’t.

Peoples’ expectations for all services, including those provided by government, are increasingly set by consumer mobile and web applications, with near instantaneous response time and close attention to user experience. The utter failure of government services to meet those expectations undermines faith in government, increases the cost of delivering its services, and ultimately, contributes to the failure of policy options that are often so fiercely debated.

The failure of healthcare.gov was a wakeup call. Now we’ve made great progress in bringing a tech-centric approach to the design of government programs via the United States Digital Service18F, and associated initiatives at various agencies. Meanwhile, Code for America is making great strides working with governments at the local level, and even the state level.

But there’s so much further to go. As we soon transition to a new administration, it’s essential to keep up the momentum: to continue to recruit top technical talent to government, to give them the authority to do what they know how to do, and to bring the government of the people, by the people, and for the people into the 21st century.

As the pushback against the successes of the equivalent British efforts, the UK Government Digital Service shows us, in a time of government handover, it’s easy for the forces of the status quo to push back against innovation.

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