Transition: Agencies prepare for the YouTube administration

Agencies should prepare to increase the transparency of their processes and operations and use mass collaboration under the incoming Obama administration, Lisa Schlosser, the new director of data collection in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Information, said today.

President-elect Barack Obama advocated more openness, innovation and change in the federal government throughout his campaign and during the transition.

“You’ll see an emphasis on transparency and connected democracy,” Schlosser said at an event sponsored by the Bethesda, Md., chapter of AFCEA International. “The Web was used extensively for campaigning and for donations. I think we’re going to see this manifested in other ways throughout the administration.”

Those concepts will translate into an agenda that relies on information technology, she said, adding that agencies need to set the stage for innovation and begin thinking differently.

For example, the Housing and Urban Development Department, where Schlosser was chief information officer until earlier this month, has begun letting its employees use the video-sharing Web site YouTube at work, she said.

Agencies will likely move toward more transparency, such as public reporting of spending through USAspending.gov, which provides access to federal contract and grant award information. As a senator, Obama introduced a bill that would expand the searchable database, Schlosser said.

Agencies will likely use other computer applications to improve services, such as the online virtual world Second Life, she said. E-government and consolidation of back-end capabilities set the stage for government innovation, she added.

“The future is going to be about modernization, innovation, experimentation with new technologies and ideas to solve business problems,” she said.

For example, the Veterans Affairs and Agriculture departments and HUD deal with mortgage insurance but do not work together extensively on it. She said those agencies should devise a single solution for dealing with mortgage insurance that all of them could use. Agencies also need to use interactive processes and services to solicit input from citizens about the direction of policies, she added.

HUD is going to publish 10 short videos about home mortgages and foreclosures and how to get help, Schlosser said. The videos will be interactive so HUD can receive feedback from users, she added.

The federal workforce and the public will likely have higher expectations of the government under Obama, Schlosser said. Agencies should use their intranets to provide a collaborative environment in which employees can provide ideas that flow through the organization, she added.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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