Discovery research and modular procurement in action.
18F takes a deeper look at modular procurement and discusses their approach to a new system for the Forest Service. The Technology Transformation Service started this engagement with discovery research, “a process used to better understand what people need from a product or service,” instead of diving into the work. In the end, this upfront feedback helped them build a better user experience and laid the foundation for a more trusting partnership. (Keep an eye out for the rest of the series on their blog.)
The San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation (SFMOCI) is looking to add two new innovation fellows to the team. If you’re interested in joining the team responsible for consistent, forward-thinking projects, check out their blog post, or go straight to the application form (hosted on Screendoor).
New America just announced its first class of Public Interest Technology Fellows. New America President and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter says that the team “is looking to build an ecosystem for the field of public interest technology”—work that will hopefully shape the way that NGOs work with technology and data.
An update on the White House Tech Summit.
In last week’s roundup, we brought you some news about the White House Tech Summit, including Jennifer Pahlka’s reasons for attending. Luckily, she’s back with two more blog posts. In the first, she praises the truly wonderful response she received from the CfA community, from which trolls were notably missing. The second post offers a rundown of the day’s activities and talks, along with Pahlka’s impressions of the day and her fellow attendees. As you’d expect, her commentary points out the importance of truly improving government services, not just public-facing websites.
Voting has been a hot topic over the past few weeks, and with the recent allegations of foreign interference, most of the commentary has revolved around creating a simpler and more secure process. Predicting Our Future recently published a podcast series on online voting and the far-reaching implications of moving away from paper ballots entirely.
One potential mark of startup success is funding—namely, progressively-larger rounds of funding. Government Technology Magazinedug into the funding history for companies on their GovTech Top 100 list to find out just how much funding these companies were commanding in each round, along with the increase in capital from round to round. (GovTech funding may be gaining momentum, too. Govtech Fund recently invested in seven more companies, more than doubling their portfolio.)
Of course, healthy revenue is the other big marker of success. Nick Bowden is back with a teardown of the path to $100MM ARR. Aside from the usual suspects (access to cash and market size), he discusses how the founders’ competencies, the product’s value-add, and the team’s makeup can all affect adoption and, ultimately, the company’s bottom line.
The a16z podcast takes Capitol Hill to chat with Representatives Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and David Schweikert (R-Arizona) about possible applications for blockchain technologies, way beyond cryptocurrencies. The 20-minute episode will leave you with plenty of cocktail party worthy soundbites about everything from information privacy to more effective foreign aid.
Invasion of the chatbots. (Coming to a city near you.)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services just added a chatbot to their support team. The bot, named Emma, should be able to answer most visitors’ questions, but if she gets stumped, she’ll switch you over to a live representative. In addition to streamlining customer support, the bot also knows how to handle personally identifiable information (PII) with kid-gloves; chat logs are purged after the session ends, or, if you’re transferred to a representative, the bot will scrub PII from the conversation before handing everything over.
You’re juggling confused applicants, a slew of expert reviewers, and endless email threads, all while trying to identify the best possible submissions to your challenge. (You know, the ones that are going to change the world!)
Of course, you’re great at this, but wouldn’t you like to breathe a little easier during application and selection season? If so, you need an intake and evaluation system that will take care of the little things so that you can focus on your program.
Yes, we’ve always served government, but with Screendoor for Government, we’re doubling down on our commitment to the groups that Screendoor was created to serve—cities, states, and federal agencies.
This means outlining our vision for modern and sustainable digital services, which you can see reflected in the newly designed product page and in our recently published white paper, A Vision for Paperless Government.
We’re excited to announce another addition to our team: the talented Victor Lymar.
Victor joins us from Scribd, where he worked as a backend engineer on one of the web’s largest Rails apps in production. Before that, he studied Computer Science and Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley and graduated in 2014.
Recently, he and Adam also became lead belay certified, another stop in their quest to convert the Department of Better Technology into a rock climbing team.
Today, we’re excited to officially unveil a tool we’ve had in beta for a while: multi language forms!
Great government digital services are easily accessible by default, and one big component of accessibility is ensuring users can access content in their primary language. As part of our work with the Government of Switzerland, we developed a simple way to translate your Screendoor forms into Spanish, French, Italian, or German.
Usually, we launch a feature with a simple blog post and a walkthrough, but we’d also like to let you see how one of our customers put it to use.
Want to learn how the Los Angeles Times used a translated Screendoor form to crowdsource stories for one of the coolest pieces of journalism this year? Read on for the details, along with a walkthrough video so that you can start translating your own forms today.
We think about forms all the time, since they’re what Screendoor is built upon.
Forms are the lifeblood of nearly every bureaucratic process because they make it easier to capture the correct information in the correct format, and then distribute that information to all interested parties. Often, these interested parties are from multiple offices, agencies, programs, and departments, which can make communication difficult and tedious.
We make it easy for Screendoor users to collect, review, and approve responses. But to date, it’s been harder to collaborate with colleagues who aren’t using Screendoor. Sure, you could send them an exported PDF or an Excel workbook, but those require an extra step and an extra email. That’s not exactly aligned with the goal of simplifying and automating business processes.
So, after tons of feedback from current and prospective customers, we’re working on some Screendoor updates to make it easier to make the move from your paper or PDF-based business process to an online workflow.
Our first update is a way to make working with your forms, both online and offline, a bit easier. Plus, we’ve given our PDF exports a little facelift.
This week, we’re going to brag about five more companies doing great work in this industry. As an added bonus, ELGL also recognized all of them in their ELGL Choice Awards. (That’s how you know we have good taste!)
We share success stories from our customers pretty often, but once in a while, we like to highlight the work of other companies in the GovTech space.
We’ve been in this business for a while, and we can testify that it’s not always easy to do business in the public sector. Despite that, we’ve seen an explosion of other companies stepping up to help government work better. These companies are helping to shepherd the public sector into the 21st century, and we’re super excited to see what they come up with next.
So, without further ado, here are five of our favorite companies, in no particular order.
We’re happy to announce the newest addition to our team, Aidan Nevin.
Aidan is a sales professional who gained experience across many industries after graduating from the University of Vermont with degrees in Psychology and European History in 2011. Most recently, he sold a SaaS reputation management platform to automotive dealerships, making him a great first hire for our sales team.
Aidan is a Vermont native living in Boston, and he and his wife recently welcomed a daughter, Bella.
(And, yes, he’s been to the Ben & Jerry’s Factory–that was our first question!)
Recently, our CEO Joshua Goldstein sat down with Hannes Gassert, a Swiss civic entrepreneur who believes that business and government are inextricable. Gassert rejects the idea that business motivations and the greater good should stand diametrically opposed.
In the United States, we don’t need to look any further than our current political climate to see what happens when this goes horribly wrong. In Switzerland, however, a direct democracy in which you can call a referendum on any topic with only 100,000 signatures, the picture looks more hopeful.
With such a direct line into the legislative process, shouldn’t citizens be more connected, more able to leverage their influence onto governmental processes? And shouldn’t government run more efficiently than in does in the US?
In his conversation with Goldstein, Gassert challenged these assumptions. He pointed to the lack of truly open, usable data and the lack of a cohesive feedback loop to facilitate real communication within his own country.
Indeed, this lack of communication is one of the largest challenges facing government, not just in Switzerland.
With stark lines drawn between government and citizens, there simply isn’t an easy way to move vital information to the people and projects that need it most, usually until disaster strikes.
Too often we try to bridge the divide when the mess is already too big.