Digital Gov

USAID's beta site is meant to look nongovernmental

Shutterstock image: sphere of cyber connection.

The U.S. Agency for International Development believes that surrendering visible ownership can be good for the mission.

The agency is joining some 100 partners, both within and outside the federal government, to launch the Global Innovation Exchange this summer, but the website, currently available in beta form, is purposely nongovernmental.

"We made some very specific decisions," said Alexis Bonnell, division chief of applied innovation and acceleration in USAID's U.S. Global Development Lab, at a May 4 breakfast held by AFCEA's Bethesda chapter. "Number one, it is not red, white and blue. It is not a .gov site."

The site aims to link innovators worldwide -- people who have created water-cleaning solutions, energy-efficient light bulbs and much more -- to the resources they need.

"We actually gave up control, gave up certain elements of influence because we recognized that if the Koreans were going to play with us, or...the U.K. or Canadians or [the Bill and Melinda] Gates Foundation, we needed to be able to have a way where we could convene together and be able to put some of our normal cultural and ground expectations aside," Bonnell said.

She added that the main type of question the site's developers asked themselves was "How do you get out of the way and let an amazing accountant connect with a startup in Nigeria and help get their books in order for us to fund them?"

The site features a clearinghouse for the many global prize and challenge initiatives in which innovators can compete, many of which USAID sponsors. As of press time, the beta site lists $327.6 million in available funding.

Bonnell told FCW that the site will officially launch in June.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a staff writer covering digital citizen services, workforce issues and a range of civilian federal agencies.

Before joining FCW in 2015, Noble served as assistant editor at the viral news site TheBlaze, where he wrote a mix of business, political and breaking news stories and managed weekend news coverage. He has also written for online and print publications including The Washington Free Beacon, The Santa Barbara News-Press, The Federalist and Washington Technology.

Noble is a graduate of Saint Vincent College, where he studied English, economics and mathematics.

Click here for previous articles by Noble, or connect with him on Twitter: @thezachnoble.


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