'Badass Innovators’ Get Down to Work

August 23, 2012

Eighteen Presidential Innovation Fellows, sworn into government service by Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry on Thursday, have six months to get five major government initiatives up and running.

A few of the fellows, whom federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park sometimes calls “badass innovators,” have been at work for several weeks.

A team focused on easing the burden of government contracting for small businesses already has developed a tool for release late Thursday on the social coding site GitHub, where developers and contractors can offer feedback. The tool is a statement of work composer that aims to cut down composition time for contracting officers and companies bidding on software contracts, Sean Greene, associate administrator at the Small Business Administration and the government liaison for the RFP-EZ team, said during Thursday’s launch event.

Venture capital investors have told Greene that they urge startups not to go after government contracts because the process is so onerous. “If venture capital [firms] are telling their portfolio bases not to sell to the largest customer in the world, there’s something wrong with this,” he said.

Other innovation fellows teams are working to expand the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments’ Blue Button electronic health records system to ordinary Americans, developing a system for the U.S. Agency for International Development and others to make secure digital payments to employees abroad, and creating personalized Web interfaces so that citizens can organize their various interactions with government.

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