Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog

  • U.S. Global Development Lab Launches to Develop and Scale Solutions to Global Challenges

    Imagine a world in which diagnostics for diseases that are prevalent in developing countries are available at pennies per use, renewable off-grid energy services are affordable for households earning less than $2/day, and every family has enough healthy food to eat.  USAID is helping to turn these ideas into realities by launching the U.S. Global Development Lab. The Lab is a critical part of delivering on the President’s commitment to game-changing innovation in the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development

    The Lab’s creation is part of a strategic decision to emphasize innovation as one of the critical tools needed to end extreme poverty and achieve broad-based economic growth in light of a number of converging trends: 

    • Recognition that quality of life and economic improvements in developing countries over the last few decades can be traced in large part to the use of scientific advances such as improved agricultural seeds and practices, oral rehydration therapy, vaccines, and the cell phone.
    • Emphasis on leveraging U.S. core competencies.  America is a global leader in innovation and invests $453 billion in public and private research and development annually.  It also has 17 of the top 20 research universities, and world-class innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley and Cambridge, MA.
    • The information economy is changing the way innovation occurs and is increasingly enabling people in even the most remote parts of the world to use mobile communications and data to learn, co-create, and deploy solutions locally and globally.
    • The emergence of new pathways to scale innovations via for-profit or social business models that are made possible by a surge in private sector investment in developing countries.  These pathways are critical since they exceed the level and reach of official assistance by the U.S. Government.

    The U.S. Global Development Lab puts tools in place to create and scale solutions to global challenges in partnership with public and private innovators around the world, USAID Missions, and interagency colleagues.  The Lab has Centers that will focus on Data Analysis and Research (problem definition), Development Innovation (ideas), and Global Solutions (scale).  It will also have teams dedicated to private sector and Mission partnerships, and evaluation and impact. 

    The Lab brings together a number of existing programs from across the innovation pipeline: Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER), the Higher Education Solutions Network, Grand Challenges for Development, Development Innovation Ventures, Mobile Solutions, and Global Development Alliances.

  • Promoting Collaboration to Advance Wireless Spectrum for Economic Growth

    Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a framework for making 65 megahertz of spectrum available for wireless broadband and other innovative commercial uses.  This action represents a significant milestone as we move the Administration’s ambitious spectrum agenda forward. 

    The FCC’s ability to make available this spectrum depended in large measure on the efforts of an array of Federal agencies that currently occupy portions of the designated spectrum, which they use to operate hundreds of systems that are critical to national defense, public safety, and other vital agency functions.  The work of those agencies, under the guidance of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, was set in motion by a 2010 Presidential Memorandum to find 500 MHz of spectrum held by Federal and nonfederal users that could be repurposed for wireless broadband service.

    We congratulate the agencies for their work, which entails balancing technical complexities and budgetary constraints, while ensuring their agency missions. In order to make available this large swath of spectrum, Federal agencies have also continued to advance collaboration with the private sector and other stakeholders, as called for by a second Presidential Memorandum on spectrum policy released last year. 

    To further support Federal agency efforts such as these, the Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a Request for Information seeking public input on ways to provide greater incentives to Federal agencies to relinquish or share spectrum for wireless broadband or other innovative commercial uses to address the ever-growing commercial demand.  An array of stakeholders submitted comments, which will inform a forthcoming report the White House Spectrum Policy Team will deliver to the President.

    Advances in the innovative uses of spectrum continue to benefit consumers, businesses, and government users while driving productivity and supporting job growth.  We look forward to continuing to implement the President’s ambitious agenda to add more spectrum to fuel to the Nation’s fast-growing wireless broadband economy. As part of this effort, we will continue to promote collaboration among agencies, the private sector, academia, and other stakeholders.

    As U.S. Department of Defense Deputy CIO Major General Robert Wheeler has said, “While the Department critically depends on wireless and information technology that require spectrum, DoD is cognizant of the scarcity of this resource and its importance to the economic well-being of our Nation…We understand that the strength of our Nation is rooted in the strength of our economy.”

    Tom Power is U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Telecommunications

  • Deadline Extension: There is Still Time to Join the Conversation on Big Data and Privacy

    As part of the White House’s comprehensive review of how “big data” will affect how Americans live and work, earlier this month, the White House Office of Science and Technology policy (OSTP) released a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comment on the ways in which big data may impact privacy, the economy, and public policy. Today, in order to give the public additional time to provide input, OSTP is extending the deadline for the public comment period through April 4, 2014. The full Request for Information can be found here. Comments can be sent to You can find more information about how to get involved at

    In addition, tomorrow OSTP, the UC Berkeley School of Information, and the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology are co-hosting a public event focusing on the policy and governance questions raised by the use of large and complex data sets. This will be the third in a series of public events co-hosted by OSTP and academic institutions to hear from technologists, business leaders, civil society, and the academic community. More information on the event, including the webcast details are available here. You can also find more information online about our recent Big Data workshops at MIT and NYU

    We hope you will join this important conversation!

  • #GeeksGetCovered: Real Estate Entrepreneur Encourages Geeks to Enroll

    As consumers surge to on the last day of open enrollment, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s #GeeksGetCovered initiative continues to focus on raising awareness, sharing stories, and encouraging healthcare enrollment among geeks, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

    As part of the effort, I recently caught up with Seattle-based entrepreneur Galen Ward, who founded the real estate website Estately in 2006. While he was able to purchase individual health insurance at that time, he reflects: “If I'd had a preexisting condition that made health insurance unaffordable, I wouldn’t have Estately in the first place. There’s a myth that entrepreneurs are risk takers. We’re actually risk managers.” Galen has seen firsthand other entrepreneurs struggle with lack of coverage, and the negative impact it had on their ability to focus on their dream. Today, Galen is passionate about encouraging other entrepreneurs to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act and to get covered.  

    Galen Ward

    Galen Ward, Founder, Estately

    Why do you consider yourself a “geek”?

    I’m a numbers guy and I make numbers-backed decisions. Every day at Estately we geek out on real estate statistics and user experience data. I created the company to help people become real estate geeks. 

    What does having affordable healthcare mean to you?

    Affordable healthcare for all means anyone who wants to can take the same risk I did and start their own company without risking their health and without risking bankruptcy because of a health issue. It means people can take time to work to build a skill - like learning to program - in order to get a better job and without worrying about access to health insurance. That’s phenomenal. That flexibility is what allows people to build a better life for themselves, and, once in a while, to build a groundbreaking new company or product.

    How can the Affordable Care Act—or access to affordable, quality health insurance—enable entrepreneurs to pursue new opportunities?

    When we made our first, second and third hires at Estately, health insurance was a huge wild card that we just couldn’t afford to offer.

    I hated doing it, but we had to ask people to either find their own health insurance or take a risk - otherwise we couldn’t afford to hire them. It limited the people who were interested in working for us. Employers shouldn't be in that position, and workers should not have to be dependent on the availability of healthcare when deciding whether to take a job.

    Now that we have the ACA this isn’t an issue for many startups, because they have options in the marketplaces. I genuinely believe the Affordable Care Act is one of the best things to happen to startups and small businesses in America in my lifetime.

    What advice do you have for other geeks?

  • #GeeksGetCovered: Education Entrepreneur Shares His Story

    Earlier this month, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy launched #GeeksGetCovered, an effort focused on raising awareness, sharing stories, and encouraging healthcare enrollment among geeks, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

    As the final day for open enrollment falls, we’ll continue to share stories about what access to affordable, quality healthcare means to geeks across America.

    We recently caught up with entrepreneur Michael Staton, who enrolled in health insurance via the online Marketplaces. Michael has worked with a variety of innovative education companies in roles ranging from founder and CEO to venture partner to advisor. Here’s what he had to say about the importance of innovators in the startup world having access to affordable healthcare in order to pursue their dreams—and the next big idea.

    Michael Staton

    Michael Staton

    What does affordable healthcare mean to you?

    Affordable healthcare means that I can continue working with and for small and agile companies without instability in my healthcare coverage. I can own the relationship with my insurance provider, instead of my employers owning it. My employers are often bootstrapped or lean, or I may not have a direct employer as I transition from one project to the next.  

    I once spent six months completely unemployed while I started a company. Eventually, as I transferred control of that company, I consulted for three different startups simultaneously.  Now I work for a small venture capital fund where the partners are expected to finance their own healthcare.  
    Do you consider yourself a “geek”?
    Of course.  But I think geek, like love, is more of a verb.  I geek out on so much, usually entrepreneurial initiatives in the education space.  I also geek out on tech, media, and creativity.  
    How has the Affordable Care Act enabled you to pursue new opportunities?

  • Statement by John P. Holdren on Approval of the IPCC's Climate-Impacts Report

    Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approved its Working Group II report on climate change “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability”— the second installment of the group’s full Fifth Assessment Report. Upon the report’s approval, John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science & Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, issued the following statement:

    “Climate change is a global threat, touching every region of the world and every sector of the economy.

    The IPCC’s new report underscores the need for immediate action in order to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change. It reflects scientists’ increased confidence that the kinds of harm already being experienced as a result of climate change are likely to worsen as the world continues to warm.

    The report highlights the widespread and substantial observed impacts of climate change, and its growing adverse effects on livelihoods, ecosystems, economies, and human health. Importantly, it also concludes that effective adaptation measures can help build a more resilient global society in the near term and beyond.

    The IPCC’s findings reinforce the importance and urgency of work already underway across the U.S. Government to implement President Obama’s Climate Action Plan—with its multipronged focus on reducing U.S. emissions, boosting climate-change preparedness and resilience, and working across borders to develop global solutions.

    Today’s approval follows more than five years of collaborative work by hundreds of physical and social scientists from the United States and around the world to comprehensively assess what is known about the global impacts of and vulnerabilities to climate change. More than a dozen U.S. Government researchers contributed to the report and Federal investments enabled many of the peer-reviewed scientific studies that underpin its findings.

    I applaud the many expert contributors to this report, which today stands as the most comprehensive and authoritative synthesis of knowledge about global climate-change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability ever generated.

    The Obama Administration is committed to continued participation in IPCC activities and to the rigorous use of scientific information as a foundation for action to address the threats from climate change.

    I look forward to this Administration’s ongoing collaboration with international partners to finalize the IPCC’s full Fifth Assessment, set for release later this year.”