New book advocates for public sector technology
President Joe Biden’s transition team integrated an unprecedented number of technologists and data scientists in his work, and now a key figure in that effort has co-authored a new book detailing the importance of public benefit technology.
The book Power to the Public: The Promise of Public Interest Technology – published earlier this month by Princeton University Press – and it is billed in promotions as a “powerful new model for how governments and nonprofits can harness the power of digital technology,” taking a close look at a number of specific cases where this has happened. Essentially, the book contains examples of how technology works and innovation in the public sector can streamline the delivery of government services, allowing government and the country at large to work more effectively for real people.
The book was written by the team of Hana Schank, director of strategy for the public benefit technology program in New America, and Tara McGuinness, who founded the New practice lab in New America and helped coordinate Biden’s transition.
In a recent conversation with Government technologyMcGuinness emphasized the importance of the topic in the book as it applies at this time. As the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout, this topic has never been more important. The need for public benefit technology that facilitates the delivery of government services is clear, she said, and as such, one of the book’s goals is to increase the number of people interested in doing that kind of problem-solving job for the government.
Another aspiration of the book is to disprove any notion that public service technology is some kind of specialty, McGuinness said, showing instead that it is simply the way the job has to be done for government to operate in the future. digital age. This, she noted, was also a guiding belief within Transition Biden, which incorporated technologists and data scientists into every team at the agency, “not just because it’s good to have these special roles, but because politics requires data thinking. ” The Biden transition was also the first to have a dedicated CTO.
Some of the country’s top leaders in governance and service modernization have rallied around the book and its ideas, praising and strongly recommending it to those in government, academia, nonprofits and d ‘other adjacent sectors.
Former President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter that the book “illustrates how nonprofits and governments can use technology to solve some of the most pressing problems of our time.”
Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Home Policy Council under Obama, also praised the book in an email to GT, calling it “… exactly the right book at the right time”, while noting that “the examples in this book clearly illustrate the types of innovation that are within the grasp of every government.” Sometimes the innovations we need aren’t sophisticated – all they need is to focus on the people you’re trying to serve, and then deploy the data and design for the benefit of them. to serve. “
And while many of the people weighing in on the book have their most significant experience working at the federal level of government, McGuinness stressed that the lessons are fluid and working at the federal level can inform states, counties and municipalities. .
“There is also a lot to bring best practices at the county and municipal level to the federal government,” she said. “It’s a really healthy exchange.”
DJ Patil – who helped build LinkedIn and also served as chief data scientist for the U.S. Bureau of Science and Technology Policy – said the book emphasizes a vital idea: to modernize, the nation as a whole must do a better job of combining technological expertise and government experience.
Although much progress has been made in this area in recent times US Digital Service almost eight years old, What works cities is present in more than 100 locations and several states have new digital service equivalents – the need is about to become even more pressing. Patil said the government is facing a situation where a massive amount of systems need to be modernized – or, in some cases, created – and that effort will require a significant workforce of skilled people who have this mix of skills. technological and political know-how detailed in the book.
As the book suggests, strengthening the country’s digital infrastructure will require expansion far beyond the current government and people nearby, in the same way that strengthening the country’s physical infrastructure will create new jobs.
“Can you imagine asking the Army Corps of Engineers to replace every bridge?” Patil said.
It would probably be impossible, and so it is with the improvement of technology in the public interest in the United States.