Presidential Innovation Fellows
This highly-competitive program recruits talented, diverse individuals from the innovation community and pairs them with top civil servants to tackle many of our Nation’s biggest challenges, and to achieve a profound and lasting social impact.
Now accepting applications for Round 3—Apply here. The deadline for applications is April 7, 2014.
The Third Round
The third round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program will focus on addressing three national priority initiatives:
- Making Digital the Default: Building a 21st Century Veterans Experience
- Data Innovation: Unleashing the Power of Data Resources to Improve Americans' Lives
- By the People, for the People: Crowdsourcing to Improve Government
Making Digital the Default: Building a 21st Century Veterans Experience
For their dedicated service defending the United States, veterans receive an array of benefits and resources, to which they deserve easy, reliable access. Recognizing this, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is embarking on a bold new initiative to create a “digital by default” experience for veterans that provides better, faster service and complements the department’s work to eliminate the disability claims backlog. This initiative will tap into modern approaches to service delivery enabled by lightweight, consumer-focused technology platforms and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).
Presidential Innovation Fellows will work with and across key VA programs to find agile, strategic, and efficient ways to unify disparate services into a single, consumer-friendly user experience—or a digital “one-stop shop” for accessing VA services and benefits. Fellows will serve as entrepreneurs-in-residence at the VA, reshaping expectations of veterans’ interactions with government and helping to create and implement a roadmap for a 21st century veterans experience.
The Data Innovation initiative aims to accelerate and expand the Federal Government’s efforts to liberate government data by making these information resources more accessible to the public and useable in computer readable forms, and to spur the use of those data by companies, entrepreneurs, citizens, and others to fuel the creation of new products, services, and jobs.
Working closely with the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and an array of agencies, the Data Innovation team will continue to scale the Administration’s various data initiatives in health, energy, education, finance, public safety, and global development. These projects include both open data initiatives, which focus on the release of general data resources in computer-readable formats in a manner that rigorously protects privacy, and “MyData” initiatives. MyData programs, such as the Blue Button (for healthcare) and Green Button (for energy usage) programs, provide Americans with secure and useful electronic access to their own personal data.
Both kinds of initiatives aim to stimulate entrepreneurship, innovation, and the creation of tools that help Americans find the right health care provider, identify the college that provides the best value for their money, save money on their electricity bills, keep their families safe by knowing which products have been recalled, and much more – all while fueling economic growth and creating jobs.
Round 3 Presidential Innovation Fellows will tackle eight Data Innovation projects involving a number of agencies.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is working to make its vast weather, climate, and earth observation data holdings more easily available and usable in the cloud, to unleash the full potential of these resources, spur economic growth, and help entrepreneurs launch businesses.
- The Census Bureau collects and produces a wealth of geospatial, demographic, and economic data resources, and is seeking to make its maps and geospatial information more easy to access and use.
- The National Aeronautic and Space Administration is working to make its earth observation data open and machine-readable, and is working to make climate data easily findable and usable by innovators developing new climate resilience tools.
- The U.S. Department of the Interior is working to make a wide variety of newly catalogued government data, including data about tourism and recreation opportunities on the Nation’s public lands and waters, easy for entrepreneurs and innovators to discover and use.
- The U.S. Department of Labor, in support of the President’s Skills and Training Data Initiative and Safety Data Initiative, is working to make its skills and safety information data resources more open, machine-readable, and useful for third parties innovators.
- The Internal Revenue Service is introducing many new digital services for taxpayers, including making it easier to securely access their own tax account, make mobile payments, check their refund status, or conduct other transactions. The Agency continues to work with its many third party stakeholders to deliver better services in support of tax administration.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is leading the public-private Blue Button Initiative to expand consumer access to electronic health information. Blue Button empowers consumers with secure access to their own healthcare information—such as medical records, prescription information, medical claims, and lab data—so they can share it with health care providers, caregivers, and others they trust.
- The U.S. Department of Energy is working to accelerate the commercialization of National Laboratory-generated technologies, in part by making information about those technologies more easy to find and use.
By the People, for the People: Crowdsourcing to Improve Government
Crowdsourcing is a powerful way to organize people, mobilize resources, and gather information. This approach taps into a dynamic, scalable pool of resources and a community of citizen solvers. This initiative’s five projects are designed to leverage technology and innovation to engage the American public as a strategic partner in solving difficult challenges and improving the way government works. Projects will explore a variety of crowdsourcing models, with the goal of scaling successful strategies across the Federal Government in the years to come.
Round 3 Presidential Innovation Fellows will work on five Crowdsourcing projects that seek to create interesting opportunities and solve unique challenges.
Open Street Map for Diplomacy, U.S. Department of State
OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a free, editable map of the world built by a community of mappers who contribute and maintain data about roads, trails, cafés, railway stations, and much more, all over the world. During disasters like the 2010 Haiti earthquake, volunteers around the globe can use OSM to quickly build maps of uncharted or poorly charted regions, with the goal of rapidly getting help to where it is most needed. This project expands on existing State Department initiatives to: create and share open geographic data with the OSM user community; support the growth of global technology communities through stakeholder events around the globe; make citizen-driven mapping a core component of ongoing engagement with civil society; and openly share the outcomes of civic engagement efforts to help inform humanitarian and development projects around the world.
Asteroid Grand Challenge—National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
In June 2013, NASA announced the Asteroid Grand Challenge (AGC) to “find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them.” The AGC is a broad call to action, seeking the best and brightest ideas from non-traditional partners to enhance and accelerate the work NASA is already doing for planetary defense. The project will involve building the processes and infrastructure needed to communicate, coordinate, and implement this massive endeavor.
Crowdsourcing Tools to Unlock Government Records—National Archives and Record Administration
With more than 12 billion pages of government records—from art works to historical documents to legal manuscripts—the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a tremendous challenge helping citizens find exactly what they are looking for. However, many of these documents exist as scanned images of cursive writing or early typeset printing which are not easily read by machines. Crowdsourcing tools can help unlock the troves of information contained within these records so the information can be used by citizens and integrated with other datasets in creative and useful ways. For example, prior NARA crowdsourcing efforts include the transcription of the 1940 census, which can be used by genealogists and other researchers, or the transcription of historic ships’ weather log to improve our knowledge of past environmental conditions. (The agency’s current crowdsourcing efforts can be seen on the Citizen Archivist Dashboard (http://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist/).This project seeks an innovator who can engage citizen developers and civic hacking communities to create thriving open source projects for these and other tools to benefit the National Archives and the American people.
Using the Crowd to Improve Patent Quality—United States Patent and Trademark Office
To help ensure that U.S. patents are of the highest quality, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is launching a new initiative focused on expanding ways for companies, experts, and the general public to help patent examiners, holders, and applicants find “prior art”—that is, the technical information patent examiners need to make a determination of whether an invention is truly novel or “patent-worthy.” This effort will focus on driving valuable contributions to the patent process and enhancing patent quality—strengthening a process that is vital to innovation and economic growth.
Crowdsourcing Disaster Response Information—U.S. Department of Energy
During times of disaster, tapping into the power of information reported by citizens through social media can significantly improve situational awareness of first responders and speed disaster recovery efforts. For this reason, the White House, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Department of Energy (DOE) recently launched standardized hash tags (#PowerLineDown #NoFuel and #GotFuel) to enable citizens to report— and disaster response efforts to track— downed power lines and the fuel status of gas stations via social media platforms.
This initiative seeks to make this and other citizen-reported information more available and easier to use in creative and impactful ways for disaster response efforts led by FEMA, DOE, survivors, first responders, state and local officials, and utilities through a variety of platforms such as ”Lantern”, a new mobile app from the U.S. Department of Energy that will allow survivors to report and access information on power outages and fallen power lines and help users find fuel and report the status of gas stations.
The Second Round
The 2nd round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program will include ten projects, described below – four that are the second phases of Round 1 projects and six new projects. Presidential Innovation Fellows have a unique opportunity to serve our Nation and make an impact on a truly massive scale.
Simplifying the process of finding or discovering information and government services that are right for you.
MyGov is creating a new service that empowers Americans to find the information and services they need across the Federal Government's fragmented and complex network of more than 1,200 websites. Rather than organizing services around the agencies that deliver them, as Federal websites do today, MyGov organizes services around people and the specific tasks they need to complete at all levels of government.
Building on the work of the inaugural class of MyGov PIFs, and inspired by President Obama's call for a smarter, leaner government and by innovative models of collaboration in the private sector, the US Chief Technology Officer, the US Chief Information Officer, and the White House Director of Digital Strategy will work closely with and support the MyGov PIFs as they deliver the four citizen-facing products that make up the MyGov service: Account, Apps, Forms, and Discovery Bar.
MyGov will save people time when filling out government forms or transacting with the government, increase awareness of available government services, and speed up notifications and updates. MyGov has the potential not only to save Americans time and money, but to reshape how they interact with and view their government.
Helping American businesses access the information and government services that will help them grow, hire American workers, and export to foreign markets. Small businesses and exporters have a fundamental problem in navigating the Federal Government’s myriad resources. It can be difficult to locate information about government assistance programs or find the correct forms for taxes or business operations. BusinessUSA is working to solve these problems and simplify government content and processes. BusinessUSA will leverage the progress of fellow PIF Project MyGov to develop tools that make it easier for businesses to save their own personal preferences, pre-fill government forms, and reduce redundancy. The project team will build and beta-test new features and tools for entrepreneurs and businesses with the purpose of cutting red tape, increasing efficiency, and supporting American businesses and American jobs.
RFP-EZ and Innovative Contracting Tools
Building a platform that makes it easier for small, high-growth businesses to navigate the Federal Government and enables agencies to quickly source low-cost, high-impact information technology solutions.
RFP-EZ improves the operations of government by making it easier for small businesses to sell their services to government buyers, and by making it easier for contracting officers within government to navigate the process of purchasing. In its first phase, RFP-EZ opened the door to small businesses by building a platform for small, creative businesses to more effectively sell to the Federal Government. The objective of the RFP-EZ 2.0 team is to improve upon the existing product and process and to scale the tool across additional government agencies so that fewer taxpayer dollars need to be spent to get the technology that government needs to do its work for the American people.
Creating a new generation of interoperable, dynamic, and efficient ‘smart systems’ – an ‘industrial Internet’ – that combines distributed sensing, monitoring, and control to help grow new, high-value American jobs and the US GDP.
The emerging industrial Internet revolution, enabled by the convergence of networking and information technology with engineered physical systems and associated services, is enabling a new generation of ‘smart systems’ and an innovation-based growth engine for the U.S. economy in a broad range industries including manufacturing, transportation, energy, healthcare, defense, agriculture, and emergency response. These cyber-physical systems (CPS) will combine distributed sensing, monitoring, actuation, and control networks with interoperable systems integration, advanced analytics, and user interfaces featuring customized degrees of autonomy to enable adaptive, predictive, and collaborative optimization of system performance over the entire life cycle (e.g. design, build, operate/use, maintain, and service). These innovations could create entirely new markets and platforms for growth in the economy, greater energy and national security, enhanced U.S. competitiveness, creation and retention of U.S. jobs, and improved quality of life for citizens.
To realize this potential will require a partnership between industry and government to develop the cross-cutting framework and best practices for CPS platform technologies that include integrated architectures, standards and protocols, advanced analytics, evaluation testbeds, and reference implementations to ensure such systems perform reliably, correctly, safely and securely. These platform technologies will leverage advances in systems and process engineering, big data and cloud computing, broadband communications, and cybersecurity
Open Data Initiatives
Stimulating a rising tide of innovation and entrepreneurship that uses government data to create tools that help Americans in numerous ways.
The Open Data Initiatives project aims to “liberate” government data and voluntarily-contributed corporate data to fuel entrepreneurship, improve the lives of Americans in tangible ways, and create jobs. As a model, decades ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began making weather data available for free electronic download by anyone. Entrepreneurs used these data to create weather newscasts, websites, mobile applications, insurance, and much more. Similarly, the government’s decision to make the Global Positioning System (GPS) freely available has fueled a vast array of private-sector innovations ranging from navigation systems to precision crop farming, creating massive public benefit and contributing significantly to economic growth. More recently, the Health Data Initiative, launched by the Institute of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2010, has opened growing amounts of health-related knowledge and information in computer-readable form from the vaults of the government and publicized the availability of these data to entrepreneurs and innovators. Hundreds of companies and nonprofits have used these data to develop new products and services that are helping millions of Americans and creating jobs of the future in the process.
Working closely with the US Chief Technology Officer and an array of agencies, the Open Data Initiatives team is continuing to scale the Data Initiatives in Health, Energy, Education, Finance, Public Safety, and Global Development. These efforts involve government releasing general data resources in computer-readable form in a manner that rigorously protects privacy. The goal is to stimulate a rising tide of entrepreneurship that leverages these data to create tools that help Americans find the right health care provider for them, identify the college that provides the best value for their money, save money on their electricity bills through smarter shopping for the right rate plan, keep their families safe by knowing which products have been recalled, and much more – a rising tide of innovation that will also contribute to economic growth and create jobs.
Stay connected: sign up for email updates through the form on this page and follow @ProjectOpenData on Twitter.
In addition to the existing data initiatives, Open Data PIFs are also being sought to focus on the following innovations:
Building Virtual Learning at National Scale
Harness new techniques in Big Data and learning analytics to help students master core academic subjects such as math and science.
Digital Tools for The Smithsonian
Develop new pathways to help The Smithsonian Institution’s treasure troves of information reach the American public – from researchers to schoolchildren and everywhere in between.
Build upon the success of Data.gov (launched in 2009) – and recent improvements such as Alpha.Data.gov – to create an integrated hub for the growing open data work of the Federal Government.
Stay connected: follow @USDataGov on Twitter.
Empowering the American people with secure access to their own personal data, which they can choose to use – either directly or through a growing ecosystem of applications and services – to live healthier, spend wiser, and get the best education possible.
The MyData Initiatives seek to give people secure access to their own data while spurring the growth of private-sector applications and services that can crunch those data for greater good. Think about a mobile app that can tell from your car’s dashboard data that you’re trying to park and, in response, alerts you to the nearest free space; or an electronic tutor that knows you learn math best between 10:00 and 11:00 AM and texts you a new pancake recipe using fractions from yesterday’s lesson; or a prospective college student being able to auto-fill all her scholarship applications with the click of a button.
In fact, all of these apps already exist. The MyData Initiatives team is charged with expanding the universe of these kinds of services by opening up new MyData information sources to the appropriate recipients, promoting standardization and security, and encouraging entrepreneurs and innovators to use these data resources to build new products and services that utilize MyData for the benefit of the data owner.
Existing MyData Initiatives are paving the way. For example, through Blue Button – a collaboration between the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs – patients can download their own healthcare records and securely share their medical histories with caregivers, import prescription histories into mobile reminder apps, and more. Similarly, the Green Button team at the U.S. Department of Energy has enabled millions of residential and commercial energy customers to download their energy usage data directly from their utilities. The MyData Initiative at the U.S. Department of Education is empowering learners of all ages in hundreds of school districts to access machine-readable copies of their academic transcripts and student loan/grant histories, and download Federal and FAFSA financial aid application forms. The MyData work is just getting started and the possibilities are endless.
Developing a crowdsourced innovation toolkit that leverages technology-enabled microtasking, profile-based skills inventories, and the sharing of proven best practices to empower our Federal workforce to respond to national priorities more quickly and more efficiently.
Inspired by President Obama’s pledge to “make government cool again,” the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in connection with the General Services Administration and the U.S. Department of State, will lead an effort to apply technology to augment and tap into the skills, creativity, and capacity for innovation of the Federal workforce. There are a variety of ways the Federal Government can improve the efficiency and productivity of its talented people – by connecting employees through an intuitive online collaboration platform, through opportunities for online learning and skills sharing (particularly since 80% of the Federal workforce is located outside of the Washington, DC metro area), and through dynamic libraries of case studies, guides, and “how to” documents – an “innovation toolkit” – that can serve as vital resources to employees looking to think out-of-the-box without having to reinvent the wheel. Using these and other tools, we can deliver on President Obama’s call for a smarter, leaner government and enable the Federal workforce to deliver greater value to the American taxpayer by saving time, money, and resources.
21st Century Financial Systems
Moving Federal Financial Management out of the era of big, agency-specific systems implementations to one that favors more nimble, modular, scalable, and cost-effective approaches.
The Federal Government has traditionally approached new financial system implementations by focusing on implementing commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) packages and adapting them to agency-specific needs. This approach has resulted in many cost and schedule over-runs, aborted implementations, and overly complex systems that are not used to their full potential. The Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation (FIT) are charting a new course for Financial Systems focused on using shared services, standardized requirements, and fewer agency-specific tweaks. The 21st Century Financial Systems project is focused on designing and building an evidence-based “test” that Treasury will use to ensure agencies don’t put out over-engineered requirements. The key to this effort will be designing and implementing a credible and efficient process to determine which agency deviations from a standard set of requirements are truly required and what would be the best way to accommodate those deviations. The success of this program could lead to dramatic and lasting cost savings on behalf of American taxpayers.
Disaster Response & Recovery
Collaboratively building and pre-positioning needed tech tools ahead of future emergencies or natural disasters in order to mitigate economic damage and save lives.
During an emergency or natural disaster it is essential that Federal, state and local agencies have access to real-time information about the critical needs of survivors. Too often, this information is siloed in private-sector databases, government data sets or unstructured but highly valued social media platforms like Twitter and Google. The goal of Disaster Response & Recovery is to: 1) Identify information critical to saving lives in a disaster; 2) Identify existing and new tools to be built and deployed to collect that information; and 3) Build out and train people in the use of these tools throughout the Federal, state and local governments.
Once these tools are built, they can be used collaboratively by the private sector, first responders, local officials, volunteers, and survivors themselves in order to get the needed information where it needs to be in real-time. This improved ability to collect and disseminate information will support disaster response and recovery planning for natural disasters for years to come. The potential savings – in terms of both American lives and taxpayer dollars – are dramatic.
Development Innovation Ventures
Enabling the US government to identify, test, and scale breakthrough solutions to the world’s toughest problems.
Great ideas and breakthrough solutions come from all kinds of different places and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has recently pioneered a competitive method for sourcing and scaling innovations to drive faster, more cost effective, and more reliable results. It uses staged financing to make small investments in promising approaches and technologies and larger investments when there is clear evidence that the method is producing significant results. It accepts proposals from startup or established businesses, social enterprises, academic institutions or non-profits, both domestically and internationally. Over 2000 proposals have been reviewed and sixty investments made across the world in a wide range of sectors.
Building on this innovative approach to government financing, there are opportunities to scale this effort to reach millions of people more quickly and ensure that the program structure is sustainable (through either profitability or host country adoption, not long-term donor support). Of particular interest would be supporting enterprises that are scaling through the private sector. In addition, there is a desire among domestic Federal Government agencies to optimize the use of taxpayer resources by adapting this model of broad competitions and tiered funding for additional missions, to produce the most cost-effective, evidence-based, and scalable solutions.
Open Data Initiatives
The Open Data Initiatives program aims to make government data and voluntarily-contributed corporate data available as a massive source of new fuel that entrepreneurs can use to create new products and jobs. As inspiration, decades ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began making weather data available for free electronic download by anyone. Entrepreneurs utilized these data to create weather newscasts, websites, mobile applications, insurance, and much more. Similarly, the government’s decision to make the Global Positioning System (GPS) freely available has fueled a vast array of private sector innovations ranging from navigation systems to precision crop farming, creating huge public benefit and contributing tens of billions of dollars in value to the American economy each year. More recently, the Health Data Initiative, launched by HHS and the Institute of Medicine in 2010, has opened growing amounts of health-related knowledge and information from the vaults of the government, and has publicized the availability of these data to entrepreneurs through meetups, workshops, and “datapaloozas” that highlight the best innovations. Hundreds of companies have now utilized these data to develop new products and services that are already helping millions of Americans and creating jobs of the future in the process. Example: iTriage, a Denver, CO company founded recently by emergency room physician Pete Hudson, utilizing open data from the government (e.g., downloadable directories of health care providers across the country) to fuel a mobile app that helps patients understand their symptoms and book appointments with the best local health care providers that meet their needs. iTriage averages 3-4 million users per month; has received rave reviews from patients; has hired 72 employees; and was recently acquired by Aetna at a premium valuation, with Aetna subsequently investing in growing iTriage even more rapidly.
The Open Data Initiatives team will both continue to grow the Health Data Initiative and execute new open data initiatives in the energy, education, public safety, personal finance, and nonprofit sectors. These efforts will involve both government releasing data resources and also private sector organizations voluntarily giving consumers access to their own data (e.g., utilities allowing consumers and businesses to download electronic copies of their own electricity usage data) in a manner that rigorously protects privacy. The goal is to stimulate a rising tide of entrepreneurship that utilizes these data to create tools that help Americans find the right doctor for them, identify the college that provides the best value for their money, save money on their electricity bills through smarter shopping for the right rate plan or appliance, keep their children safe by knowing which toys and cribs have been recalled, and much more – innovation that will improve the lives of Americans, contribute to economic growth and create jobs.
Blue Button for America
This project will seek to expand nationwide adoption of Blue Button, a capability pioneered and deployed for veterans by the VA that enables patients to securely download electronic copies of their own health information. Blue Button is currently available to veterans, uniformed service members, and Medicare beneficiaries, and almost a million people have downloaded their own health information to date.
The Blue Button for America project will seek to spread implementation of Blue Button across the country on a voluntary basis (Aetna, United, McKesson, and others have already adopted it), enabling millions of additional Americans to be able to download electronic copies of their own health information. The project will also stimulate the development of new apps and services (e.g., personal health management applications) by entrepreneurs that can help veterans and consumers in general effectively use their own Blue Button data – and create new businesses and jobs in the process.
RFP-EZ aims to create a streamlined process for the federal government to do business with small, high-growth companies. Right now, many of the best tech companies view the process for selling to the government as too long and too complicated. The result is suboptimal for both the government and the companies who potentially miss out on a large market opportunity.
The RFP-EZ team will build a prototype process and online platform that makes it much easier for federal agencies to buy low-cost, high-impact solutions from innovative tech companies. The success of this effort will result in (1) the government buying better and less expensive products and services, saving taxpayer dollars and improving results delivered, and (2) easier access to the government marketplace for high-growth start-ups, helping them create new jobs.
The 20% Initiative
Through the 20% Initiative, the U.S. Government is pursuing a cross-agency effort to promote the use of efficient electronic payment transfer methods, getting 20% more bang for our buck. Across the world today, the U.S. Government – along with nearly every other country, the private sector and donor agencies – makes billions of dollars of monthly payments in cash to support foreign policy, development assistance, government operations or commercial activities. Until now, cash has often been the only alternative, but is expensive to disburse and particularly susceptible to corruption, fraud and misappropriation that can be hard to detect. Advances in communication technology and innovative payments infrastructure now allow payments to be made through mobile devices, smart cards and other electronic methods.
USAID is lead agency for the 20% Initiative and will lead the way in transitioning from cash to electronic payments. The success of this effort will improve development outcomes – such as financial inclusion, reducing corruption, and improving safety – while generating significant cost savings for the US taxpayer, host country governments, and U.S. companies working abroad. It will also create large-scale new entrepreneurial and growth opportunity for companies in the electronic payment sector.
The federal government currently offers information and services to the public through an array of thousands of websites. Too often, these sites are organized around the federal bureaucracy, rather than the needs of the citizens our government is meant to serve. As a result, it’s hard to find information and services, discover other relevant content and offer constructive feedback. There must be a better way.
The MyGov team will reimagine the relationship between citizens and government and create a rapid prototype of a single, streamlined, intuitive online system that Americans can use to easily access the right information and services for them from across the US Government — and also provide feedback about their interactive experience.