'Baddest' innovation fellow goes to GitHub

Ben Balter has taken a position at the open software collaboration platform, maintaining a focus on government.

Ben Balter

Fresh off success with the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, Ben Balter has found a new gig. (Photo courtesy of Ben Balter)

He’s been called the "baddest of the badass innovators" by federal CTO Todd Park, and after a successful six months as a Presidential Innovation fellow, Ben Balter is taking a job with the open software collaboration platform GitHub.

GitHub announced the move March 6, two days after Balter’s first day on the job, which will entail government outreach and helping spur the federal government’s adoption and promotion of open source code and collaboration in the open-source community.

Github’s description was more succinct: Balter will help "government to do all sorts of governmenty things well, more awesomely."

Balter, who will remain in the Washington, D.C. area, said the federal government is shifting from casual user of open source tools to "an active participant," and said part of his job will be to help continue that expansion.

"We’re just now seeing this second phase in open source in which the government is not only using open source and producing code, but actually being an active participant in the open source community," said Balter, citing efforts by agencies like the Federal Communications Commission and the White House.

NASA and the General Services Administration have also turned to GitHub to share code, promoting an open data environment where code is reused and repurposed by a slew of collaborators, leading to improved products, increased sharing and a more effective use of taxpayer dollars. As an example, the White House recently held a Hackathon to gather ideas from the open-source community to improve the application programming interface (API) that drives the We the People petitioning system, leading to several new tools.

"Joe Citizen can see a problem, he can submit a proposed code change, and the White House can merge that in," Balter said. "All of a sudden, Joe Citizen’s code is running on a White House program."

Though only 26, Balter boasts a resume full of government and open-data experience that is combined with infectious enthusiasm.

Before joining the first class of innovation fellows, Balter was a fellow in the Office of the U.S. CIO in the Executive Office of the President, where he played a key role in drafting the Digital Government Strategy. He also served on the White House Software Automation and Technology Team, which helps automate tasks, streamline processes and optimize data formatting.

Then in the PIF program, Balter worked with fellow fellows Kara DeFrias, Phil Ashlock, Danny Chapman and Greg Gershman to create Project MyUSA, a streamlined online system that makes it easier for people to access governmentwide information and services.

At GitHub, Balter said he is optimistic the "crowdsourcing and cleaning up of code" will grow, fostering an exchange of information that helps citizens and government truly understand government data better.

"If you put this information on something like GitHub, you can get a collaborative process," Balter said. "You get conversations that don’t just happen between the government and citizens, but between citizens themselves. We want to build a community around that data, rather than the government just broadcasting it."

The future could be fun, too.

Balter said he envisions polices and bills beginning one day as GitHub repositories, where even minute changes are transparent to the masses in a collaborative Democracy, just as a GitHub user can view the evolution of a code over time right now.

On that basis, "A lobbyist with a briefcase full of money is on an equal playing field with the 18-year-old sitting in her high school civics class," Balter said.

Balter appears ready to help bring the government and open source community closer, but he said the bottom line is that there is a community of intelligent people out there willing and able to help the government do things better.

"When government does things better and smarter, we all benefit," Balter said. "It’s about making it easier to work together than apart."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.