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Meet the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, August 23 2012

The White House this morning announced the 18 techies and experts who will spend six months working on one of five projects using technology to try and improve government as part of the White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program.

The list of fellows includes several familiar names. Former techPresident research assistant Raphael Majma — who also has some more impressive bona fides, such as his New York Law School degree and a stint working with Beth Noveck on an open data project — is working on the administration's open data efforts. Blue State Digital cofounder Clay Johnson will be working on RFP-EZ, a project to make it easier for small contractors to participate in the federal procurement process. Working on MyGov, intended to be a one-stop portal to access federal government services, are Civic Commons co-founder and Open311 community manager Phil Ashlock and Ben Balter, who rolled his own analysis of federal websites to determine how many were reachable and using a modern content management system.

This is part of the Digital Government Strategy the White House rolled out in May, representing a new phase in Obama administration efforts to make government more open, participatory and collaborative. Also today, federal Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel published a list of things that federal agencies have already done, or are in the process of doing, to meet the guidelines set out in the strategy. The deliverables already in place are things like a new application programming interface for U.S. Census data, which techPresident covered when it went into beta testing in June, and the creation of several internal groups to share technology and social media standards and best practices. Agencies are also beginning to identify the data they might make available as fodder for developers through APIs, data sets that include the Department of Justice's Uniform Crime Report and the Environmental Protection Agency's repository of information about facilities subject to environmental regulation or of environmental interest.

TechPresident contributor Christian Bourge was at a press conference announcing the fellowship program this morning and we'll have more on the program later for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers. A first note is that some open-government and tech industry observers have been observing on Twitter that of 18 selectees, only two fellows are women, a hiring choice from the White House that comes as increasing attention is paid to counteracting the effects that a predominantly male workplace culture might have on some technology firms.

In the meantime, from a White House press release, here are the fellows and the projects they're working on:

The five projects, and the Fellows who will be working on each, are:

Blue Button for America will spread the ability for millions of Americans to easily and securely download their own health information electronically, all while fueling the emergence of time and money saving products and businesses.

  • Henry Wei, MD – Practicing doctor and informatics expert, New York, NY
  • Ryan Panchadsaram – Founder of Pipette, San Francisco, CA
  • Matt McCall – Information systems expert, Baltimore, MD

RFP-EZ aims to develop an online marketplace that will make it easier for the government to do business with small high-growth tech companies, and enabling the government to buy better, lower-cost tech solutions from the full range of American businesses.

  • Clay Johnson – Best-selling author, open government technologist and entrepreneur, Washington, DC
  • Jed Wood – Interaction designer, web developer, and entrepreneur, Chicago, IL
  • Adam Becker – Web developer and co-founder of civic engagement startup GovHub, Oakland, CA

MyGov will create a prototype of a streamlined online system enabling citizens to easily access the information and services from across the Federal Government.

  • Kara DeFrias – User experience writer from TurboTax San Diego, CA
  • Phil Ashlock – Open government program manager and co-founder of Civic Commons, Brooklyn, NY
  • Danny Chapman – Award-winning website designer, Riverside, RI
  • Greg Gershman – Software engineer and serial entrepreneur Baltimore, MD
  • Ben Balter – Software engineer, Washington, DC

The 20% Initiative will work to transition “the last mile” of international development assistance payments from cash to electronic methods – lowering administrative costs, promoting financial inclusion, and reducing theft, fraud, and violence.

  • Karl Mehta – Serial entrepreneur and founder of PlaySpan, Fremont, CA

Open Data Initiatives will accelerate and expand Administration efforts to make government data more publicly accessible in “computer-readable” form and spur the use of those data by entrepreneurs as fuel for the creation of new products, services, and jobs.

  • Ian Kalin – Navy veteran and managing director of an energy sector startup, San Francisco, CA
  • Marina Martin – Web developer and business efficiency expert, Seattle, WA
  • Raphael Majma – Open data researcher, Brooklyn, NY
  • Nick Bramble – Director, Law & Media Program, Information Society Project at Yale Law School, New Haven, CT
  • Dmitry Kachaev – Software engineer, Arlington, VA
  • Nathaniel Manning – Robotics entrepreneur and member of the World Economic Forum’s Personal Data team and Google’s Data Colloquium team, San Francisco, CA

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.


wednesday >

NDI Launches Open Source DemTools for International Development

Yesterday the National Democratic Institute launched a suite of web-based applications created for their partner organizations, mostly pro-democracy groups and political parties around the world. These “DemTools,” which are ready-to-use but can also be customized, will give organizations in developing countries some of the capabilities that political activists and parties in the United States have had for years. Moreover, since the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is making the promise to host partner organization's applications in the cloud essentially forever, they hope these applications will help usher in a period of more sustainable tech.