Bringing tech entrepreneurship to improve government

Just read about a fantastic programme of The White House called ‘Presidential Innovation Fellows’ which brings together folks from the technology entrepreneurship and ‘start-up’ community to address national issues and improving people’s interaction with government. Although I just stumbled upon it, it seems to be running for the 3rd consecutive year.

As noted in this article about the Fellowship programme,

The program, which pairs fellows ranging from venture capitalists to all kinds of “geek” types with government agencies, launched two years ago and aims to leverage the tech industry’s lean startup know-how and creative thinking to improve Americans’ lives and government process.

It’s a clever way of providing the tech community an avenue for ‘service’ – beyond the traditional routes of military service or typical public service. Harnessing the best of talent, creativity, and disruptive innovation, this programme seems like a great way to infuse new thinking into how government and governance can function better with practical technology interventions that take advantage of the mobile and data revolution.

President Obama with a batch of Innovation Fellows. Image courtesy whitehouse.gov

President Obama with a batch of Innovation Fellows. Image courtesy whitehouse.gov

As the official website of the Fellowship notes,

The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program brings the principles, values, and practices of the innovation economy into government through the most effective agents of change we know: our people. This highly-competitive program pairs talented, diverse individuals from the innovation community with top civil servants to tackle many of our Nation’s biggest challenges, and to achieve a profound and lasting social impact. These teams of government experts and private-sector doers are taking a “lean startup” approach and applying methods like user-centered design to achieve results for the American people in months, not years.

Hope this type of engagement can be looked at in Sri Lanka, too. For instance, bringing in app-developers and big data junkies to use some of the valuable information that is being gradually made available on the government’s Open Data portal. While much needs to be done to improve the “readability” of the data, it’s certainly a great start.

For instance, data on crimes (by type, severity and location) can be used by Sri Lanka Police to better allocate resources and identify critical points. A mobile app can help both the Police force and citizens easily access geotagged information and make better choices. The same goes for the rich data on prisoners maintained by the Prisons Department, as highlighted in this blog. Just one of many possibilities. But it requires a basic recognition that improving ‘government’ doesn’t have to follow traditional paths. Let’s open it up to new ideas and infuse new creativity for solving national problems.

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One thought on “Bringing tech entrepreneurship to improve government

  1. Why not do the cheap thing and steal a few ideas that get implemented through this process in the US? Our local techies can adapt or customise to better adapt to local requirements if needed. It may be less innovative but a quick and dirty way towards improvement.

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