In a recent exclusive interview, President Obama discussed the efforts his administration has made to improve digital services in the federal government. The Obama administration has placed a priority on improving the government IT capacity through a variety of programs and initiatives including Federal Agency Digital Service Teams, 18F, and the Presidential Innovation Fellows. The president discussed his frustrations and hopes for how the government can better leverage technology.
Procurement policies need an update
The president argued that antiquated procurement rules hinder the government’s adoption of information technology (IT). For example, he identifies those policies as partially contributing to the challenge of launching healthcare.gov. Developing such a complex and unique platform required an iterative design process with software testing built into every step. This approach to design does not match well with the restrictions on procurement.
Willingness to break tradition
The president also contended that the confidence of federal workers in unique technical solutions is important. Generally, the public views federal agencies as ossified and unwilling to adopt new approaches, the president in particular pointed to the Veterans Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development as organizations that may feel “stifled” by an interpretation of the law or regulation. Shedding this mindset is a necessary step to improving the IT capacity of agencies focused on the status quo.