Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • Connecting Kids from Diverse Backgrounds to Tech Skills

    There is no better time than the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy’s Week of Action Celebrating STEM and Black History Month to highlight the tremendous progress being made at organizations, schools, and companies across America to advance the growing “Tech Inclusion” movement—aimed at connecting students from diverse backgrounds to technology classes, skills, and careers.  

    In his 2013 State of the Union Address, President Obama issued a call to better equip American graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. The President noted that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are crucial to America’s economic future, and that students with STEM skills will be a driving force making the Nation competitive, creative, and innovative.  And we know that  it’s in the country’s best interest to ensure that this STEM workforce taps into America’s full talent pool and harnesses what is one of the Nation’s greatest assets—diversity. 

    That’s why the White House has issued a call to tech innovators to work together to ensure that all youth—particularly those from underserved and historically underrepresented communities, including women and girls—have the opportunity to study STEM subjects and participate in the technology sector.

    I had a chance to chat with a few all-star individuals who are making strides toward our shared goal of connecting kids from communities across America to tech opportunities. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Startup America Going Strong at Three Years

    Last month, President Obama began his State of the Union address by praising the role of America’s entrepreneurs in expanding opportunity for all:

    Today in America…an entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. 

    Last month also marked the third anniversary of Startup America, a White House initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the Nation.  In 2011, President Obama issued an all-hands-on-deck call to action for Federal agencies, Congress, and the private sector to help increase the success of entrepreneurs across the country.

    Here’s a look at three big ways the Startup America initiative has led to action over the past three years:

    1.  Expanding access to capital: Two years ago, the President sent to Congress his Startup America Legislative Agenda, which proposed three ways to expand access to capital for innovative companies, from crowdfunding to “mini public offerings” all the way to initial public offerings (IPOs). Congress responded and in April 2012, the President signed the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, enacting these proposals to encourage startups and support our Nation’s small businesses. Thanks to this law, today smaller emerging growth companies have a smoother path to transparent capital markets through an “IPO On-Ramp,” which provides a maximum five-year phase-in for certain costly audit requirements, consistent with investor protections. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed new rules designed to allow startups and small businesses to more efficiently raise capital from investors, including through streamlined “Regulation A+” mini public offerings and through a new class of regulated crowdfunding platforms.  As the President said in 2012 when signing the JOBS Act, expanding the promise of crowdfunding is a potential game-changer because “start-ups and small business will now have access to a big, new pool of potential investors—namely, the American people. For the first time, ordinary Americans will be able to go online and invest in entrepreneurs that they believe in.”

  • We Love it When a Plan Comes Together…

    Federal agencies are currently hard at work developing revised Open Government Plans — blueprints that are published every two years, highlighting agency progress towards making their work more transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and outlining new open government commitments going forward.

    This iterative, biennial process grew out of the December 2009 Open Government Directive issued by the Office of Management and Budget, which instructed executive departments and agencies to take specific actions to incorporate the principles of openness set forth in the President’s  Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, which he signed on his first full day in office.

    To aid agencies as they put together their 2014 Plans, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer this week shared guidance describing topic areas that agencies should work to include in their Plans, including commitments made in December as part of the U.S. second Open Government National Action Plan.

    The 2014 Plans will provide an inspiring showcase of open government achievements to add to those achieved by agencies in past Plans, such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s expansion of webstreamed meetings so participants across the country can hear about existing and proposed nuclear sites, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s ongoing International Space Apps Challenges, which have encouraged thousands of innovators from around the globe to create tools to improve life on earth and in space.

  • A Week of Action: Celebrating STEM and Black History Month

    This Friday, to wrap up an exciting week of action by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in celebration of Black History Month, to shine a light on the importance of engaging America’s full science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent pool, OSTP Director John P. Holdren will visit Morgan State University, a Baltimore-based Historically Black College or University (HBCU). In addition to touring on-campus research and laboratory facilities, Dr. Holdren will meet with university leadership, faculty, and students to discuss the challenge and opportunity of broadening participation in STEM fields – a priority area of focus for OSTP.

    Here’s a recap of OSTP’s “Week of Action” activities to celebrate Black History Month and promote STEM inclusion:

    To start off the week,  on Tuesday, OSTP’s Knatokie Ford and Marlon Marshall of the White House Office of Public Engagement co-hosted a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout featuring all-star African American STEM students, researchers, and scientists to share their stories, lessons learned, and help inspire African American students across America to pursue STEM studies and careers. 

    On Wednesday, OSTP Director Holdren delivered closing remarks at a White House Champions of Change event convened by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, celebrating extraordinary leaders who are working to support and accelerate STEM opportunities for African American students, schools, and communities. Later in the day, Director Holdren kicked off a day-long workshop, convening leading technical experts, representatives from minority professional societies, nonprofit organizations, and other key stakeholders to develop concrete actions that help minorities excel in STEM studies and careers.

  • A White House Call To Action to Advance the BRAIN Initiative

    President Barack Obama is introduced by Dr. Francis Collins

    President Barack Obama is introduced by Dr. Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health, at the BRAIN Initiative event in the East Room of the White House, April 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    On April 2, 2013, President Obama launched the Brain Research through Advancing Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a Grand Challenge designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. 

    Under this initiative, Federal agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are supporting the development and application of innovative, new technologies that can create a dynamic understanding of brain function and its relationship to behavior. These scientific and technological advances could also lead to improvements in our ability to diagnose, treat, and even prevent diseases of the brain. Recently, DARPA, NIH, and NSF have made announcements of significant new solicitations or awards related to the BRAIN Initiative. Other Federal activities are being coordinated with the BRAIN Initiative through the National Science and Technology Council’s Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience.

  • Welcoming Detroit’s New Chief Information Officer

    The Obama Administration is committed to partnering with the City of Detroit—its citizens, local leaders, and community stakeholders—to support the city’s vision for economic revitalization. As part of this effort, in November, the White House assembled in Detroit a team of top municipal-government technology officials from around the country. The goal of the trip, and the ongoing engagement between this Tech Team of municipal officials and the city, has been to identify ways technology can be leveraged in support of economic revitalization and improved services for city residents.

    Today marks another important milestone for Detroit city government’s technological revitalization: it is the first day on the job for the City of Detroit’s new Chief Information Officer, Beth NiblockShe is serving in a newly-created cabinet-level position in the city. Beth, an accomplished and innovative leader, was a member of the municipal Tech Team. She brings to Detroit a wealth of valuable experience through the incredible work she did over the past decade in the same position for the City of Louisville, Kentucky.

    Congratulations to Beth and the City of Detroit. The creation of this new position—with Beth on the job— further solidifies the critical role of technology and innovation in the city’s policies and economic revitalization efforts. We look forward to continued progress as the City of Detroit, under Beth’s leadership, embarks on building a more robust, vibrant, 21st century city. Going forward, OSTP and the Tech Team will continue to partner with City of Detroit to support this important work.

    Brian Forde is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer 

    Don Graves is Executive Director of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness at the White House