This is part of a series of articles by MBA students at California College of the Arts dMBA program. Follow along here.
By Yvonne Tran
Code for America, a self-described “Peace Corp for geeks” nonprofit, launched their Demo Day for civic startups this past Halloween. It featured a number of companies that range from automating data entry for government agencies to enabling people in local cities to get together and vote for the change they want. Code for America is an example of the jointly vested interest of local government and of business/tech professionals to build a bridge from ineffective, antiquated bureaucracy to effective, technology-based solutions.
The pairing of government and technology is nothing new. It is reported that spending on IT services for the federal government will be $120 billion by the end of 2012 and an estimated $55.4 billion, for local and state governments equaling to a total of $175.4 billion dollars spent on tech related services and products.
- Mobile apps market – estimated $30 billion dollars
- iOS app market – $4 billion dollars
- Video game market – $74 billion dollars
With those numbers, there is huge opportunity to innovate and disrupt the current government IT services industry. Until recently, government hasn’t been getting the clue from Silicon Valley that technology and its use in communicating with the citizens who elected them is of the utmost importance.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), an early adopter and staunch supporter of these types of mergers led the way and created the Open Gov Foundation. The Foundation focuses on developing and deploying technology solutions that encourages people to participate in their government. Their flagship venture, Project Madison, is the first legislative crowd-sourcing utility. Public collaboration on policy with those tasked to represent us! Mind-boggling! Creating conversations about government 2.0 has met with open arms under the Obama administration. The U.S. CTO, Todd Park has launched five programs in his first months after being appointed to the position. Park says that Obama is focused on using technology to solve problems for Americans, “It’s tech as a means to an end.”
Most Americans feel negatively about government and may not trust politicians to address their needs. Jennifer Pahlka, Executive Director of Code for America, feels this can be changed. She notes that government does not need to be a slow-moving and hesitant machine, “Every system is hackable in the best sense of the word. What’s needed is a culture of entrepreneurship – one in which you try quickly and accept failure quickly if it happens.” Accepting failure and moving on quickly is not something any level of government worker is familiar with especially if it’s tied to slashed budget lines. Trusting government to do an effective job shouldn’t feel like a stretch of the imagination.
With the advent of civic startups, there is more attention from lawmakers to create a true “open government,” and politicians like Newark Mayor Cory Booker using Twitter to be more accessible – we live in a digital age that offers endless opportunities to bridge the gap between business and government (ask anyone waiting at the DMV or filing for unemployment benefits).
I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Yvonne Tran is currently a candidate at California College of the Arts’ Design MBA program. She has a background in nonprofit management, organizational development, youth leadership, and film production. She is invested in blending government and community organizations with business.
[Image source: vocefuoricampo]