President Barack Obama offered some details about this second-term management agenda on Monday, including initiatives to use technology to make the government smarter and more efficient. The press conference followed Obama’s trip to Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., and Obama pledged to utilize the private sector to help solve problems the government cannot.
“Dealing with the federal government is now always high-tech and not always user-friendly,” Obama said. He provided the example of how FEMA can now use satellite imagery to identify families who need aid in a disaster instead of having to visit sites in person. “[We’re] delivering services better, faster and more efficiently.”
In addition to being more efficient, Obama said that his administration as identified $2.5 billion in annual savings by using technologies to streamline government services.
The president introduced upgrades to official websites aimed at helping citizens understand more about the government. For example, a new feature on whitehouse.gov allows users to a receipt that details exactly how tax dollars are spent. A major redesign to Healthcare.gov now will soon allow users to do side-by-side comparisons of private insurance companies.
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Obama also discussed data.gov, a website that allows users to search through and download government data. He said several companies in the private sector that are creating jobs are finding uses for this data. He provided the examples of Opower, a company that uses data.gov’s information on energy trends and weather to help families save on energy bills, and iTriage, an app that has helped more than 9 million people find doctors and hospitals that fit their needs.
Obama said his cabinet and senior officials have devised an “aggressive management agenda” that is recruiting successful members from the tech community to bring private sector solutions to public sector problems.
Details were limited, though Obama did give a few examples. A new platform called MyUSA aims to make filling out government forms quicker and easier by remember user data and auto-filling like on shopping websites. Another software program borrows an idea from postage trackers, allowing small businesses applying for government contracts and licenses to get updates on the process in real time.
“We’ve got to have the brightest minds to solve the biggest challenges,” Obama said.