Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Maximizing the Impact of Social Spending Using Evidence-Based Policy and the Low-cost Randomized Controlled Trial Competition

    President Obama has emphasized the importance of using rigorous evidence and evaluation to ensure that the government makes smart investments with taxpayer funds. Last December, we reported on a competition launched by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy with funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The competition demonstrates the feasibility and value of low-cost randomized controlled trials (RCTs) for building important evidence about what works in social spending. Through assessments like RCTs, the government collects data about the effectiveness of different programs, enabling more informed decisions when allocating funds to maximize social impact in areas such as healthcare, education, and childcare.

    I sat down with Jon Baron, the Coalition’s president, to hear about the results of this year’s competition and the potential of RCTs going forward.  

  • Announcing the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative Demo Day

    As Hurricane Arthur reminded us last week, hurricane season is underway. To help address the challenges that severe weather brings to our communities, today we are announcing a White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative Demo Day, which will take place on July 29 at the White House. This event will bring together technologists, entrepreneurs, and members of the disaster response community to showcase tools that will make a tangible impact in the lives of survivors of large-scale emergencies. The White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative was first launched by the Administration in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to find the most effective ways technology can empower survivors, first responders, and local, state, tribal, territorial, and Federal government with critical information and resources.

    This event is a follow-up to the preview the President received at his annual Hurricane Season Briefing. At the brief, the President viewed a demonstration of the “Lantern Live” mobile app, designed by Department of Energy Presidential Innovation Fellow Derek Frempong to enable survivors to report and access information on power outages, fallen power lines, and the availability of gas stations with fuel and powered pumps. Other presenters included representatives from the Commonwealth of Virginia and Orange County, Florida, who provided overviews of their mobile apps that assist residents before, during, and after emergencies. These apps help users develop their own emergency plans, receive emergency alerts, and access critical information, including evacuation routes, shelter locations, and ice and water distribution points.

    The President recognizes what experience and research have repeatedly shown: citizen/survivors faced with emergencies seek information and take action to help themselves, their neighbors, and their communities to respond to and rebuild from a disaster. Passivity in the face of danger is almost non-existent. Historically,  a large part, if not most of the initial sheltering, feeding, relief, rescue, and transport of victims to hospitals was carried out by survivors in and near the affected area. The Federal Government aims to enable, empower, and strengthen these survivor efforts in the wake of a disaster.

  • More than Ten Thousand Citizens Hack for Good at the Second-Annual National Day of Civic Hacking

    Open data empowers people and businesses, drives innovation, and makes possible what was previously impossible. Today’s apps and websites use open data to make cities easier to move around, more sustainable, and more business friendly. 

    For the second year in a row, America’s Civic Hackers, Mayors, and State and Federal government officials came together to participate in the National Day of Civic Hacking—the biggest gathering of civic hackers in the world. The event brings together technologists, entrepreneurs, developers, and citizens to unleash their tech skills to improve their communities and the governments that serve them. This year, 123 events were held in 103 cities in 13 countries across the world.

    Inspired by the National Day of Civic Hacking, mayors across the country are stepping up and recognizing the tremendous benefits to opening up their city data. For instance, showing their support for the open data movement, in May Mayor Karl Dean signed the “Metro Government Open Data Executive Order” for the City of Nashville, while Councilmember Sittenfeld and Interim City Manager Stiles announced the City of Cincinnati’s new open data policy.

    Los Angeles is also leveraging open data and civic hacking. On May 31st, City of Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin and Chief Innovation Technology Officer Peter Marx joined us at City Hall to launch an open data portal for the City of Los Angeles. At the event, we met with over 400 Los Angeleno civic hackers who are building tools to leverage the City’s newly released open data—including data sets on permits issued, incidence of traffic collisions, and 311 response times.https://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/RnNZfQn2o2xpggJQqefCOervMbPIci5mujDPJnvl43kv6Rtxjyh5gHN_JKVzeU-aaGz3pePFgxfoAAtZJZNx8mveVTc-11j98EfuAJVcumUenA=s0-d-e1-ft#https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

  • US Ignite Fosters Technology for the Next Generation

    US Ignite Reception

    US Ignite Application Summit 2013 (Credit: US Ignite)

    Broadband access is essential to the Nation’s global competitiveness, helping to create new jobs, to accelerate technology innovation, and to expand global markets for American businesses. Broadband boosts the economy and enhances the public sector by providing improved tools to educators, doctors, and first responders in communities across the country. 

    Building on the Administration's efforts responding to the driving demand for gigabit broadband networks, in 2012 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation supported the launch of the US Ignite initiative, a private/public partnership that is fostering transformation of the public sector by accelerating the development and deployment of next-generation applications. 

    An independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization, US Ignite is working closely with its partners to create an ecosystem of 60 applications and 200 test beds for next-generation applications that will have a profound impact on how Americans work, live, learn, and play. These applications capitalize on the potential for gigabit broadband networks to improve education and workforce development, advanced manufacturing, health, transportation, public safety, and clean energy.

    As the Chief Geek at Fitnet, a virtual fitness app, Bob Summers has developed and marketed consumer Internet applications since 1994. Fitnet is his fifth startup, and the first that uses gigabit Internet and computer vision technology to help users achieve health goals with mobile interactive fitness sessions. Summers developed iSpQ VideoChat, a desktop video conferencing software, to reach over 3.0 million users from 196 countries and territories, and continues to be passionate about creating compelling online video experiences.

    I recently spoke with Bob about Fitnet and his work using next-generation technologies to transform the health of people across the country and around the world.

  • Executive Actions to Accelerate Impact Investing to Create Jobs and Strengthen Communities

    Today, at a White House roundtable on impact investing, senior Administration officials met with more than 20 private-sector investors answering the President’s call to action by announcing their new commitments to make more than $1.5 billion in investments that intentionally generate sound financial return as well as measurable social or environmental impact.  New Administration actions will catalyze additional private sector impact investments and support these companies and entrepreneurs.  Finally, according to a new private sector report released today, such smart policy interventions could help grow the global impact economy significantly.

    President Obama has described this as an “all hands on deck” moment that requires all of us to pull together to create the change we seek.  To tackle our most significant challenges, from combating childhood obesity to fighting climate change, from ensuring all hard-working Americans have the skills to get ahead to preparing American students for a 21st Century economy, to doubling access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, we need cross-sector collaboration fueled by a mix of improved regulation and public resources with private capital and philanthropic support.  “Impact investing” stands out as one fast-growing model that brings together these strands. This model of investing to generate economic value as well as measurable environmental and social benefit is gaining traction across the country and around the world. 

    As part of today’s White House event, firms such as Prudential and the Capricorn Investment Group; foundations such as the McKnight, Ford, and MacArthur Foundations; and a wide range of family offices participated and discussed new impact investments.

    Building on President Obama’s year of action using his pen and phone, the Administration will take a number of significant steps to encourage even more investors, foundations, businesses, and entrepreneurs to embrace this model. This includes announcements by SBA, USAID, and Treasury designed to facilitate the flow of private capital toward sustainable business models.  These steps are just the latest in the Administration’s ongoing effort to support the growth of private sector led impact investing as a strategy to create jobs and strengthen communities in the U.S. as well as to advance the President’s global development goals.

    Finally, the private sector U.S. National Advisory Board to the Social Impact Investment Task Force also released Private Capital, Public Good: How Smart Federal Policy Can Galvanize Impact Investing – and Why It’s Urgent. The Advisory Board, which participated in our White House event, includes a blue chip group of 27 leaders from across the investment, business, foundation, academic, and non-profit sectors. 

    For more information on all of these commitments, see the Background on the White House Roundtable on Impact Investing.

    Byron Auguste is Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House National Economic Council

    Tom Kalil is the Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy

    Jonathan Greenblatt is Special Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Domestic Policy Council

  • Big Data, Open Data & the Federal Agencies

    Open data and big data -- and the responsible management and protection of that data -- are key components of the President’s agenda to drive innovation and economic growth.

    On Thursday, June 19, leaders from civil society, industry, academia, and 40 Federal departments and agencies met at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy's Massive Data Institute to discuss how Federal agencies can continue to unlock government data to drive innovation and improve services.  Drawing from the White House Working Group report, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, this event focused on opening and using government data, while appropriately protecting privacy and preventing the use of data to discriminate against vulnerable populations in our society.