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New US Digital Service Looks to Avoid IT Catastrophes

BY Alex Howard | Wednesday, August 13 2014

USDS' Mikey Dickerson at the 2009 MySQL Conference (Photo by Jorge Bernal)

At a time when the public's trust in institutions is at historic lows, the federal government's use of technology has an unusual place in the national discourse. After the first Internet president's administration was responsible for the high-profile failure of Healthcare.gov, the issue seemed ripe to drive significant reform on Capitol Hill. Even if some 10 million adults gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act after "Obama's trauma team" made successful fixes to Healthcare.gov, negative public perception has lingered, and for good reason. Under the radar, other projects have continued to sputter, like a $300 million dollar Social Security government IT boondoggle that still has not delivered a working system for submitting disability claims. The crash of the FCC's dated website under the weight of 1.1 million comments this summer didn't help, either. At the same time, the confidence of the technology community has been damaged by revelations of dragnet surveillance and surreptitious backdoors planted in software. Now, the executive branch has launched two new initiatives aimed squarely at these issues, 18F and the just-announced US Digital Service, Alex Howard reports. Read More

At 18F, The U.S. Looks to Fail Fast on Government IT Projects Instead of Failing Big

BY Alex Howard | Thursday, April 3 2014

The state of govt IT today: Long lines in Columbia, SC waiting to sign-up for HealthCare.gov

Can a new small office inside the General Services Administration start to revolutionize how the U.S. government does information technology? That's the premise behind 18F. Longtime open government observer Alex Howard offers this in-depth report. Read More

Free the Data: The Debate Over APIs and Open Government

BY Alex Howard | Monday, March 17 2014

Photo: Jonathan Gray

As the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) catches on across government agencies, third-party developers, open government advocates, and government techies are debating whether this should become the gold standard for open data, and if so, whether such services should be free. Read More

HealthCare.gov's Missed Opportunity: Private Online Insurance Brokers Still Left Out

BY Alex Howard | Tuesday, February 25 2014

Nearly five months after the troubled launch of Healthcare.gov, private online health insurance brokers are still not selling plans eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act directly to consumers over the Internet, even though the mammoth law explicitly mandates that option. While consumers who aren't eligible for subsidies can use the online alternatives to Healthcare.gov, like eHealthInsurance.com, GetInsured.com and GoHealth.com, just as they have been able to do for years prior, a key component of the Obama administration's efforts to get people insured still isn't working quite right. Such brokers, classified as "Web-based entities" (WBE) by the United States government, have been chafing at the delays. Read More

WeGov

At "Peak Open," Open Government Partnership Faces Default States of Closed

BY Alex Howard | Wednesday, November 6 2013

Incoming civil society chair of the OGP, Rakesh Rajani, far left (Photo: Alex Howard)

With the second annual Open Government Partnership summit now concluded, one longtime observer of the "open government" movement, Alex Howard, offers his overview of its achievements, shortcomings and challenges ahead. Read More

U.S. Commits, Yet Again, to Modernizing Administration of Freedom of Information Act

BY Alex Howard | Thursday, October 31 2013

Pictured is, from left to right, Rageh Omaar, ITV News; Tanzanian Pres. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete; and Rakesh Rajani (Alex Howard)

As part of its participation in the international Open Government Partnership (OGP), which is now holding its annual summit this week in London, the United States government is committing to further open government data, improve its management of natural resources, engage citizens in innovation and, perhaps most significantly, modernize the administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). That last item is most important. The United States has had a FOIA law since 1966, and it was expanded after the Watergate scandals. It's a critical tool for the press to hold government accountable. Compliance with FOIA, however, has long been a mixed bag. Alex Howard reports from London. Read More