Deputy CTO promotes innovation paths that can be replicated

Data should be embedded in products, services

Advancing innovation in government should be turned into a process that can be replicated and scaled to fit different agencies to be most effective, Chris Vein, the federal deputy CTO for government innovation, said on May 11.

Vein, a former CIO for the city of San Francisco who joined the White House in March, spoke at the FedScoop conference on citizen engagement and open government.

With a mandate to foster more innovative technologies at federal agencies, Vein said his job also has transparency goals. “It is about innovation, and open government is a piece of the agenda,” he said.

One area is improving customer services under President Barack Obama’s recent executive order, he said.


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“I am working on a model to take what is happening at the Office of Personnel Management, Transportation Department and Commerce Department, and scaling it for what I call the ‘government vertical,’ ” the linked array of federal, state and local government agencies, Vein said.

From a customer service point of view, it makes sense to look at federal, state and local governments together because people don't care which agency delivers a service, such as a driver’s license, he added.

Vein also said he has been inspired by Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, whom he called “an amazing visionary” who generates many ideas.

“I am focusing on taking the ideas and turning them into repeatable models,” Vein said. “We need to create the capacity to change, we need to change how we approach problem solving, with lean start-ups and design thinking, and we need to reduce barriers to change,” he added.

One strategy for innovation is to promote the market for data by publishing government data, encouraging free use and liquidity of data and building communities that advance the uses of it, Vein said.

"The data is not useful until it has value and is embedded in products and services,” Vein said.

He mentioned the Health and Human Services Department’s community data program as an example of a pathway to innovation that can be replicated in other agencies. In the program, application developers are encouraged to create new ways to use and showcase health data.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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