Civic & Gov Tech 3.0 Under Biden Featuring Matthew Lira
8:00PM Jan 26, 2021
Trust and safety and I've been at Facebook for almost.
Hi everyone, I'm Albert Howard, the chairman of the Congressional app challenge alumni advisory board I hope you guys are all having a good day.
So the congressional app challenge is a project of the internet Education Foundation. The organization that hosts the state of the net conference every year. The GOP congressional app challenge is the official student stem competition of the US House of Representatives. Every year, members of Congress host district wide congressional app challenges for middle school and high school students, encouraging them to learn to code and inspiring them to pursue careers in computer science in 2020 308 members of Congress hosted congressional app challenges for 1000s of students in 49 states. It's my honor to introduce today's speakers, Nick Sinai and Matthew lire Nick is a senior advisor at insight partners and adjunct faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School. Previously, Nick was the US Deputy Chief Technical Officer at the White House. Nick led President Obama's Open Data initiatives to liberate data to fuel innovation and economic growth and work to advance innovation and health, energy, education and finance sectors. Nick also co lead President Obama's open government initiative to ensure the federal government is more transparent participatory and collaborative. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Nick was a venture capitalist at Lehman Brothers Venture Partners. Matthew formerly worked in the White House Office of American innovation, where he worked to coordinate priority policy initiatives for the office. For the past decade Matt's work has placed him at the cross section of politics government and the emerging digital economy with a unique mixture of experiences in congressional leadership, as well as national campaigns, he's gained firsthand insight into our nation's political and governing institutions. Prior to that, Matt has served as senior advisor to house majority leader Kevin McCarthy, digital director for then VP nominee Paul Ryan and senior advisor to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. When I was working with Representative cantra in 2013. He helped Shepherd the rules for the congressional app challenge. Thank you Matt, and Nick for your service and your contribution to the CAC. Let's welcome their talk on civic and governmental technology, under the bidet administration. Thank you.
Well, thank you, Alberto for that great introduction and for Tim and the whole team for putting this panel discussion here today, together today.
This is my first time speaking as a former official and I have to say somewhat liberating. And it's sort of appropriate because for roughly four years ago was the last time I had spoken just prior to joining the White House and so there's a good with Nick actually, and some other colleagues and so it was, there's a nice, nice cyclical nature to this, I suppose, I guess, let me start with a few comments and then I'll kick it over to Nick, and then maybe he and I can go back and forth on a discussion about these important issues. First and foremost, if you're going to at least from my perspective, if you if there's only one takeaway for today's discussion, it should be this. And that is that there is enthusiastic bipartisan support for the tech for tech modernization issues throughout the federal government. Both during the Obama administration and during the Trump administration and now as we enter the by demonstration. These have always been issues where unusual Coalition's and and teams have been able to come together that seemingly can agree on, on little else to try to advance what's in the best interest of our country and I see no reason to, I see no reason for that. For that to discontinue as we head into the Biden era. And so, that I think is the most important message of the day. My personal opinion as we look at kind of the different chapters of working as those of you I'm sure who are watching today know this has been an issue that has challenged the federal government for some time, progress has been made, but the challenge remains. And so I think it's a fair question to reflect on. You know what is, where are we in this moment. And what does it look like going forward. At the sort of highest level. When I think about tackling modernization leveraging technology to improve the quality of Citizen Services. I break it down naturally in sort of three chapters, the first chapter. Being at the, in the, primarily in the Obama administration, which was the sort of initiation of these of institutional efforts to drive this nature of change the creation of usds the creation of TTS the creation of the Presidential Innovation Fellows etc. In fact, even over on Congress was slightly unrelated the congressional app challenge was created about that time. We came in roughly four years ago we made a decision to double down on this progress. And rather than sort of try and reinvent the wheel we wanted to build on the progress that had been made. Of course, adding lessons and hopefully evolving the programs through our tenure, but that nature of continuity would give us the opportunity to deliver some positive outcomes for the country and so I kind of label that arrow Trump errs are institutionalization of it in the initiation, and in the institutionalization. When I look from now and into the future of the Biden era I see an opportunity really what I hope is to scale, those efforts and early indications out of the binding proposals seemingly from my perspective, would indicate them, you saw, um, you may have seen the proposals for funding increases at TTS USGS and the technology management Fund, which were created by the combined work of the previous two administrations, but take those funding up into the billions of dollars. So a program that was dealing with $15 million could have 300 million, etc. And so I'm very bullish and very optimistic about the early signs that I've seen coming out of the new team. And I'm hopeful that this spirit of collaboration and consensus will continue. But with that maybe I'll pause and hand it over to the eminent, and one and only irreplaceable Nick Sinai, who I'll say on a personal note is one of the finest public servants out there. He's been in the private sector for far too long, hopefully, one of these days I'll come back in but Nick, take it away.
Rory will get you nowhere Matt. But I would like to welcome everyone and echoes Matt comments about these, these set of policies are bipartisan and nonpartisan, and that it really is from one administration to another set of handoffs and building upon the lessons and, because most of the hard work, almost all of the hard work is done by the tremendously talented career and term folks who come in for shorter terms, but are not political appointees either. And so, it is a continuing building and evolving right i think we continue to learn things as, as a community about what what works and what should be should be tweaked, but everyone can can get behind, more efficient, more effective, more user centric services that ultimately accomplish the program, or the mission that that set out to do. Right. And so the thing that I would, I would add is it feels a little bit like we're in our teenage years, you know, in terms of there's that awkward adolescence, of. We have a number of of good things, like the US Digital Service 18 F and F. We have a number of innovation labs and other reforms on the hiring procurement front, even some work on the certification and security front there's still a long ways to go on number of those, those, those areas. And yet we really have to scale on across the several million folks that are inside the executive branch right and so there's, there's just a massive opportunity set. And so how we how we scale, means that we really need to move away from from the bespoke and to things that that that can scale. And so one of the things that I've, I've been thinking about with a number of existing civil servants and people who've been in the government tech and civic tech communities, is how do we make sure the next generation Generation Z is included.
And the statistics are actually not very good. I think it's 3% of the Federal it workforce is under 30. And it's just, we don't have enough of of Generation Z in federal service and in technology design data science, so forth and so I'm, I'm really passionate about this idea that I've been working on called the digital core, which I hope that will join me and it will become a bipartisan type of thing. But it's really about how do we how do we get college aged technologists, to come into government for a couple year tour of duty. Hopefully some continue on in federal service and others will will go back to school or into the private sector or those kinds of things but I do think that that we are. We've moved past the kind of a Savior complex the solution ism the the excessive focus on technology as opposed to also understanding how are we going to modernize some of our processes and especially the acquisition and talent side so it's it's recognizing that these are bigger problems than than just a couple smart engineers, which are definitely needed in the ecosystem, but we we have rooms for up for all kinds of folks to, to make a impact here, so I'll stop there and ask, let me ask you a question is, what are you most proud of and what what did you feel like you didn't get done in the past four years. Well,
I guess the most pride is difficulty, only because there's so much, but I think what my initial instinct to react to that question has been would be to say, I'm most proud that I think we've largely kept these issues, apolitical. and it's, I think any observer could say these are very challenging times for a nation's politics and the nation's civic culture. And yet, throughout that entire process. I believe that these issues at least from my perspective have remained largely apolitical and have been have been a place where people of goodwill could come together and work to make a difference. And some of those people might have wildly different political views or ideological views, but they share a common intention to try to make things better. And I see that throughout the civic tech programs in particular in the federal government and elsewhere. And I have some measure of pride I suppose, whatever contribution that I may have had, but certainly the team of people that I had the privilege to work with the term hires the fellows the people like Matt Cutts and others who have leaned into this challenge, because I think there's a different. There's a different scenario where December 2016 March, 2017, there was a there was a fracturing in the civic tech community and sort of everyone left and went one way and the other people went another way and instead I think, despite the considerable and honest differences we may have had in other areas, this was something that has kept kept the country going and that's the reason I'm ultimately optimistic about our ability to achieve something long term here, there's nothing more powerful and impactful than American consensus over time. And you want us to have a casual review of our nation's history to see that. I think a second area. In terms of, I guess my to be about pride. It's just a word I struggle with as opposed to someone from the American West but is the, and it's not perfect. I think it's something that there needs to be continued work on but we were always trying to build a culture of team as it relates to, whether it's the career civil servants, political appointees term hires for their technical expertise, the vendor community. And certainly I'm speaking very specifically about civic tech world here. I think we were able to hopefully encourage more of that where we don't look at each other as sort of competing equities, but that we realize that everyone has a valuable role to play in a virtuous cycle of progress whether you're a vendor, a civic term hire career federal employee or an agency leader, and it obviously it's not perfect but I think generally speaking that virtuous cycle is underway and you're starting to see some of that continue into the Vita ministration, as you will know Nick. Anytime you work in the public sector. There's always the unfinished work of the next chapter, there's never sort of a clean break point, even under the best conditions for me I think the next frontier, that I am optimistic that they'll continue to impact is taking the capabilities institutions that two administration's work together to create and delivering large scale enterprise changes to the customer experience, throughout the high impact service providers that have been identified by OMB, you think about the amazing work that, you know, Charles Worthington and and Marina and a whole bunch of other people did for the VA and sort of improving the va.gov experience in a very meaningful way. And taking that as a model to go agency by agency by agency across the federal enterprise, I believe, is it possible I think you're seeing early indications that that's the approach, more or less, that the by the administration will take, but I'm excited to see what they're able to do with it. pivoting back to you. Maybe I'll throw the question your way and sort of say what sort of, I'll give you maybe I'll give you an opportunity, even though it's been some time to talk about pride. Please make you comfortable but
let's start with the ministration. Let's
talk about Yeah What do you see as opportunities for them.
Yeah, well I mean I think one of the things you can see from from the agency review teams like the folks that had served on those was intense focus on on delivery. Right. And so I think this is this is important for the policy crowd that is assembling today is that, you know, policy is incredibly important. But it doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot of it's not implemented well. And so this whole notion of, of how beneficiaries veterans students underprivileged populations or underserved populations. All these people, how they actually feel and how they experience the the particular government program. That's tremendously important and I think that's one of the things that I've been excited to see in the past decade has been this maturation of of digital experience customer experience. And in fact we have different guilds running around in government right we have a whole set of cx folks, we have digital service delivery folks we have, we have had, which includes a number of designers, there's the behavioral scientists that tend to take their kind of longer more statistical approach, but they're all pushing towards really making the, the end user, their needs. The Northstar, and that's ultimately how we have to design and modernize our systems around and ultimately, ensure whether we are effective and try to reduce some of the complexity of government. I, I'm excited about that consensus and the opportunity for these different guilds across government to continue to kind of come together on on making the the the end user the North Star and I think it gets to, how do we talk to the American public to because, ultimately, that's, you know, whether they're recipients of of food stamps or, you know, whether they're trying to get a federal job, or they're visiting a national park whatever whatever the thing is, that's the most tangible thing that we can deliver for them.
Yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. The. You know I think generally speaking, there's maybe I'm a danger of going a little high level here but there's so much. When you go to issue by issue in our policy or political culture or policy communities. There's more than enough opportunity for disagreements, but I feel like the civic tech community has somehow remained this beacon of hope, or this beacon, that it's a better way as possible. And I know that's something that the President spoke about in his inaugural address about finding ways to work together and I. So for those of us that are sort of in the civic tech community, and is in the IT community as funny as this may seem, I actually believe that we can sort of get outside of our batting average or, you know, we really have an opportunity to show that people of goodwill can work together and achieve outsized impact not only in the projects we're working on directly, but on the very thesis that this kind of work is possible at all. And as I say I'm tremendously optimistic I have an amazing amount of confidence in the names I've heard so far in this area, and in the work and rumors and buzz that I've been hearing. And I just cannot wait to see what they're able to achieve. I, for one, as you and others were gracious enough to do for me. Well, you know, be at the ready to help them any way I can. From my new purchase, and roles. I'm sure you feel the same way Nick, but I think I would encourage anyone to sort of a call to action is watching us today. We each no matter where we are, whether we're in the White House, and a vendor usds A Piff TTS or anywhere in between. We all have the opportunity to make a difference in this. And it begins by recognizing that each of us come from a place of good faith. And I know we're off on time so maybe I'll wrap there. And Nick. I'll let you close it out.
No, no, that was, that was, that was well said we still have a lot of work to do. I'm excited about the the the friends and colleagues and and new faces that are coming into the Biden ministration, it really is a diverse coalition of counted people, many of whom no government and no technology and so I'm so excited. there obviously would be some, some changes but we'll we'll get to those I guess in in a future session and I guess we're coming up on time so thank you for, for having us Tim great to see you again Matt and we'll, we'll turn it over to jack. Over to you jack.