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Technology and the Federal Government: Recommendations for the Innovation Advisory Board

Our former Brookings colleague Rebecca Blank, now at the Commerce Department, is today leading the first meeting of the Obama Administration’s Innovation Advisory Board, looking at the innovative capacity and economic competitiveness of the United States.

I applaud the effort.  Nothing is more important to America’s longterm competitiveness than emphasizing innovation.  As the council looks to the private sector and global markets, I urge it to examine how the U.S. government can lead innovation and contribute to economic growth.  The best place to look is new and emerging digital technologies that can make government more accessible, accountable, responsive and efficient for the people who use government services every day.

Here are some of the recommendations I made in a recent paper I wrote with colleagues here at Brookings as part of our “Growth Through Innovation” initiative:

  • Save money and gain efficiency by moving federal IT functions “to the cloud,” i.e., using advances in cloud computing to put software, hardware, services and data storage through remote file servers.

  • Continue to prioritize the Obama administration’s existing efforts to put unparalleled amounts of data online at Data.gov and other federal sites, making it easier and cheaper for citizens and businesses to access the information they need.

  • Use social media networks to deliver information to the public and to solicit feedback to improve government performance.

  • Integrate ideas and operations with state and local organizations, where much of government innovation is taking place today. 

  • Apply the methods of private-sector business planning to the public sector to produce region-specific business plans that are low cost and high impact.

These improvements in government services innovations in the digital age can help spur innovation and support a robust business climate.  And, as a sorely needed side benefit, they can also serve to eliminate some of the current distrust and even contempt for government that has brought public approval of the performance of the federal government to near historic lows.