Technology and Trust: The Challenge of 21st Century Government
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Technology and Trust: The Challenge of 21st Century Government

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An update of my Technology and Trust talk, delivered at TEDx Market Street on M

An update of my Technology and Trust talk, delivered at TEDx Market Street on M

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Technology and Trust: The Challenge of 21st Century Government Presentation Transcript

  • 1. @codeforamerica Technology and Trust: The Challenge of 21st Century Government Tim O’Reilly @timoreilly TEDx Market Street May 10, 2014 codeforamerica.org Saturday, May 10, 14 When you see the title of this talk, Technology and Trust, you perhaps think of Edward Snowden and the ongoing scandal of NSA spying on the American people and our allies. But I’m actually here to talk about something that is perhaps even more fundamental. And it starts here...
  • 2. Saturday, May 10, 14 How many of you are old enough to remember a time when you had to physically walk into a bank and talk to another human being in order to get cash? I remember…. And that memory seems quaint to all of us because we know how much personal finance has been revolutionized over the last 25 years because of digital, networked technology.
  • 3. Saturday, May 10, 14 Even a few years ago, people would have been amazed to take a picture of a check with a phone and the money will show up in their account a few hours later. The same digital, networked technologies, it seems obvious to say, have revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives. Not just banking but everything from education to how we interact with our friends.
  • 4. Saturday, May 10, 14 But there’s one place where that revolution has largely not yet taken place: in government. This is the Department of Motor Vehicles, which in the US is a symbol of bureaucracy. Just about everyone has to go at some point in their lives and almost no one has a good experience.
  • 5. 91% of Americans own a cellphone 67% use Facebook, 33% have a tablet... Why is this how we engage with government? Saturday, May 10, 14 And this is a microcosm of the problem we try to address at Code for America--when the tools are available for people to connect with anyone in the world and access every piece of information one could ever want, why do we make it so hard to access government?
  • 6. 6 Saturday, May 10, 14 Even  when  government  tries  to  do  digital,  we  get  messes  like  healthcare.gov. It  doesn’t  have  to  be  that  way.    But  when  the  government  does  end  up  building  technology  that  doesn’t  work  and  costs  way  too  much,  not  only  do  ci@zens  get  gypped,   but  it  breaks  our  trust  in  government.
  • 7. 7 Saturday, May 10, 14 Democracies get their strength from the people’s trust. When the interactions that people have with government are so divorced from how they live their lives, or are hard and unpleasant, what is that doing to the trust that underlies our democracies? Obviously, the decline of trust in government has to do with a lot of other factors besides technology, but the way government is so out of step with ordinary life certainly is symptomatic of the deeper problem.
  • 8. 8 Saturday, May 10, 14 Tom  Steinberg,  founder  and  execu4ve  director  of  MySociety,  one  of  the  pioneers  of  the  open  government  movement,  wrote  “Good  governance...” This  is  one  of  the  key  principles  that  we  work  from  at  Code  for  America.    It  isn’t  just  a  maGer  of  geHng  smart  tech  people  into  government  -­‐  that’s  magical thinking.    We  need  to  completely  reorient  the  way  government  creates  policies,  so  that  it  works  much  more  like  a  “lean  startup,”  where  you  constantly are  trying  to  learn  what  works,  rather  than  deciding  what  you  want  to  do,  and  only  then  trying  to  implement  it.
  • 9. 9 Saturday, May 10, 14 The  problems  with  healthcare.gov  were  made  worse  by  greedy  contractors  who  charged  hundreds  of  millions  of  dollars  (perhaps  up  to  a  billion  dollars  when  you count  the  state  exchanges)  for  a  site  that  many  of  us  in  Silicon  Valley  think  could  have  been  done  for  a  few  million  at  most,  and  by  feckless  bureaucrats  who  didn’t  know how  to  manage  the  project.    But  the  problem  started  here,  with  a  900+  page  “specifica@on”  (the  Affordable  Care  Act)  plus  tens  of  thousands  of  pages  of  addi@onal  regula@ons that  had  to  be  followed  to  the  leTer.  (By  contrast,  the  Interstate  Highway  Act  of  1956  was  only  29  pages  long.)    Imagine  that  Google,  or  Facebook,or  the  iPhone,  had  started  with  a  huge  specifica@on  wriTen  by  a  commiTee  of  hundreds  of  lawyers   (and  lobbyists)  and  you  realize  where  the  real  problem  lies.    Policy  people  at  the  top,  implementors  at  the  boTom.  Completely  the  inverse  of  the  way  it  works  in  Silicon  Valley. (Lots  of  people  say  Obamacare  was  2400  pages  long.  This  is  incorrect.  For  details  on  the  page  count  of  Obamacare,  see  hTp://www.leadertelegram.com/blogs/tom_giffey/ar@cle_c9f1fa54-­‐d041-­‐11e1-­‐9d01-­‐0019bb2963f4.html  and  hTp:// www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-­‐checker/post/how-­‐many-­‐pages-­‐of-­‐regula@ons-­‐for-­‐obamacare/2013/05/14/61eec914-­‐bcf9-­‐11e2-­‐9b09-­‐1638acc3942e_blog.html  )
  • 10. 10 Saturday, May 10, 14 The  UK’s  Government  Digital  Service  is  the  best  example  of  a  government  agency  that  is  doing  things  right.    One  secret  to  its  success  is  that Mike  Bracken,  the  head  of  the  GDS,  reports  in  at  the  highest  level  of  government,  and  has  a  seat  at  the  table  in  shaping  policies  that  affect  digital  services. In  the  past  couple  of  years,  the  GDS  has  replaced  something  like  1700  bad  government  web  sites  with  one  that  has  more  usage   than  all  1700  combined  had  before.  The  service  has  had  ci@zen  sa@sfac@on  go  through  the  roof,  and  has  won  plaudits  from  everyone.
  • 11. 11 Saturday, May 10, 14 The  GDS  has  aGracted  a  talented  team  of  technologists  and  has  been  described  as  “the  hoGest  startup  in  London.”    But  one  of  the  most  important  things  they’ve done  is  to  rethink  how  to  design  government  digital  services.    The  GDS  Design  Principles  are,  in  my  opinion,  the  most  important  user  interface  document  since the  original  Macintosh  User  Interface  Guidelines,  which  set  the  tone  for  the  mouse  and  window  era  of  compu4ng. A  lot  of  our  work  at  Code  for  America  is  informed  by  the  UK’s  Government  Digital  Service  Design  Principles.
  • 12. 12 Saturday, May 10, 14 The  first  of  these  is  to  start  with  needs  -­‐  user  needs,  not  government  needs.    This  is  so  cri@cal.    The  GDS  works  a  lot  like  any  Silicon  Valley startup.    They  iden@fy  a  problem  area,  and  learn  how  to  solve  it  incrementally,  with  a  build-­‐measure-­‐learn  cycle.
  • 13. 13 Saturday, May 10, 14 Code  for  America  follows  the  same  approach. Our  flagship  program  is  our  Fellowship,  which  brings  talented  startup  teams  into  ci4es  for  a  year  to   develop  innova4ve  solu4ons,  but  perhaps  more  importantly,  to  teach  city  partners  how  to  think  about  a  more  modern, user-­‐centric  approach  to  government  technology.
  • 14. @timoreilly Saturday, May 10, 14 A great example of how our Fellowship teams apply the GDS Design Principles is a project that we did in 2012 in Honolulu, where we worked on a project to improve the city’s website.
  • 15. Saturday, May 10, 14 With  only  three  fellows,  they  couldn’t  take  on  the  task  of  rebuilding  the  content  for  the  en@re  website.  So  what  they  did  instead  was   to  build  a  site  that  beTer  conformed  to  the  way  people  look  for  informa@on.  They’re  usually  looking  for  quick  answers  or  steps  for  ac@on   they  need  to  take  and  a  site  that  looks  like  this  is  really  frustra@ng  to  navigate.    How  ojen  have  you  come  to  a government  website  like  this,  full  of  press  releases  (mee@ng  government  needs,  not  ci@zen  needs).
  • 16. Saturday, May 10, 14 So  they  built  Honolulu  Answers,  a  super-­‐simple  and  elegant  search  interface  that  allows  ci@zens  to  enter  keywords  or  ques@ons  and  get  quick  answers.
  • 17. 17 Saturday, May 10, 14 They applied another one of the GDS design principles, to design with data. They mined the visitor logs of the existing site and the city’s call center to find out what people are really looking for, instead of what government departments want to say about themselves. And one of the things that they found was that driver’s license information was one of the top searches. (In Hawaii, the city manages this for the state.)
  • 18. 18 Saturday, May 10, 14 Take  a  look  at  the  city’s  exis@ng  start  page  of  driver’s  license  informa@on,  complete  with  such  “need  to  know”  informa@on  as  the fact  that  the  driver’s  licensing  sta@ons  have  a  new  statewide  computer/camera  licensing  system!  We  even  have  a  link  to  a  picture  of   a  driver’s  license.    But  the  informa@on  about  how  to  get  one  is  hard  to  find.    That’s  what  ci@zens  really  want. This  is  the  kind  of  thing  that  breaks  trust  with  government.
  • 19. Saturday, May 10, 14 And  get  back  plain  language  answers  that  direct  a  user  toward  ac@on. The  site  itself  was  easy  enough  to  build.  But  the  team  was  faced  with  the  challenge  of  how  to  populate  all  the  content.  It  would  have  taken  the  three  of  them  a  very  long  @me,  especially   considering  none  of  them  were  from  Honolulu.   So  they  did  something  that’s  actually  preTy  radical  when  you  think  about  how  government  is  used  to  working.
  • 20. Saturday, May 10, 14 So  they  asked  ci@zens  to  write  the  content.  You’ve  probably  all  heard  of  a  hackathon.  Well,  they  held  a  writeathon.   Members  of  the  community  suggested  topics,  picked  from  among  the  most  popular  ques@ons,  and  wrote  the  answers  to  them. This  led  to  some  ques@ons  government  doesn’t  usually  try  to  answer,  like  this  one  about  wild  pigs. Over  the  course  of  a  Saturday  ajernoon  they  had  created  almost  all  of  the  content  for  the  site. But  more  importantly  than  that,  they  created  a  new  way  for  ci@zens  to  par@cipate  in—to  build—their  government.
  • 21. 21 Saturday, May 10, 14 Our  second  major  program,  the  Code  for  America  Brigade,  works  with  local  volunteer  groups  to  redeploy  Code  for  America  apps   (as  well  as  other  civic  apps),  and  to  do  other  work  to  improve  technology  in  ci@es.    
  • 22. @timoreilly Saturday, May 10, 14 In  June  2013,  on  the  Na4onal  Day  of  Civic  Hacking,  in  Oakland  (where  I  live)  the  Oakland  Brigade  held  their  own  writeathon  for  Oakland  Answers.  The  Code  for  America  Oakland  team  took  the  code  base  from  Honolulu  Answers   and  redeployed  it  (everything  is  on  GitHub  hGps://github.com/codeforamerica  )
  • 23. @timoreilly Saturday, May 10, 14 When I participated in the Oakland write-a-thon, I wrote this answer to the question about hazardous waste disposal. I knew what needed to be said, because I’d discovered a few months before that there was a limit on how much you could bring in. I found this out when I was turned away because I had too much in my truck. The information about limits was in the footnote on a form that you normally fill out on site, but that they say you can print out and bring with you if you like.
  • 24. @timoreilly Saturday, May 10, 14 When I participated in the Oakland write-a-thon, I wrote this answer to the question about hazardous waste disposal. I knew what needed to be said, because I’d discovered a few months before that there was a limit on how much you could bring in. I found this out when I was turned away because I had too much in my truck. The information about limits was in the footnote on a form that you normally fill out on site, but that they say you can print out and bring with you if you like.
  • 25. 24 Saturday, May 10, 14 But  is  simply  building  beGer  websites  that  important?  I  wrote  a  blog  post  about  this  recently  on  the  Code  for  America  site:    What’s  really  at  stake  in beGer  interfaces  to  government.
  • 26. 25 “One  privilege  the  insured  and  well-­‐off  have  is   to  excuse  the  terrible  quality  of  services  the   government  rou4nely  delivers  to  the  poor.  Too   oben,  the  press  ignores  —  or  simply  never   knows  —  the  pain  and  trouble  of  interfacing   with  government  bureaucracies  that  the  poor   struggle  with  daily.” Ezra  Klein,  Washington  Post Saturday, May 10, 14 It  was  fundamentally  a  reflec@on  on  this  quote  from  Ezra  Klein,  wri@ng  in  the  Washington  Post,  to  the  effect  that  all  the  furor  over the  failure  of  healthcare.gov  hides  a  far  deeper  problem.    He  wrote:
  • 27. @timoreilly Saturday, May 10, 14 That’s why one of the things I’m proudest about at Code for America is the work we have done to improve interfaces to social services. Last year, our team in San Mateo worked on building a social services search engine, and an API that allows social services in other cities to register their offerings so that they can easily be found. http://ohanapi.org/
  • 28. @timoreilly Saturday, May 10, 14 In San Francisco, the Fellows debugged the system to figure out why people were being unnecessarily cut from Food Stamp benefits.
  • 29. 28 Saturday, May 10, 14 People  were  geong  dropped  from  the  system  because  they  didn’t  know  what  to  do  when  they  received  leTers  like  this,  full  of  gobbledygook   and  legalese.
  • 30. 29 Saturday, May 10, 14 The  Fellows  built  a  simple  Text  messaging  system  telling  people  to  call  the  office  when  they  were  out  of  compliance. We  built  a  similar  system  in  Louisville  KY  to  remind  people  of  court  dates.     We  also  built  a  system  in  New  York  to  help  the  criminal  jus4ce  system  help  evaluate  candidates  for  alterna4ves  to  incarcera4on.
  • 31. 30 Saturday, May 10, 14 Jake  Solomon,  one  of  the  Fellows  who  worked  on  the  San  Francisco  project,  wrote  a  fabulous  post  on  Medium  called  “People,  Not  Data:    On  Disdain  and  Empathy   in  Civic  Tech,”  that  is  required  reading  for  anyone  who  cares  about  making  government  work  beGer  for  its  ci4zens.
  • 32. 31 Saturday, May 10, 14 And that’s what we’re all about at Code for America. The organization was founded to change the culture inside government that supports bureaucracy, breeds disengagement with citizens, and makes it hard for government to come up with innovative solutions to longstanding problems--all using modern networked, digital technology and user-centered design principles. We take four approaches: 1) we work directly with government officials (at the local level) to create the capacity inside government to build innovative solutions to hard problems; 2) we build communities of technologists and citizens who want to lend their skills to help build their governments; 3) we build tools that make citizen interactions with government easier, simpler, and more elegant, so that the experience of government is positive and breeds trust. 4) We incubate and accelerate civic startups to create new economic models for those tools. In this, we’re influenced by the idea that government should act like a platform. Before the iPhone, phones had twenty or thirty applications; now they have millions. When governments open data, for example, private companies can deliver innovative services. (Eg GPS, weather, healthcare innovation)
  • 33. 32 “The  legi4mate  object  of  government  is  to  do   for  the  people  what  needs  to  be  done,  but   which  they  cannot,  by  individual  effort,  do  at   all,  or  do  so  well,  for  themselves.” Abraham  Lincoln,  July  1,  1854 Saturday, May 10, 14 I  want  to  end  with  this  reminder  from  Abraham  Lincoln.  Government  is  one  of  the  key  plaporms  for  improving  the  quality  of  our society.  Bringing  modern  technology  and  user  centered  design  to  government,  so  that  it  truly  serves  its  ci@zens,  is  one  of  the   great  opportuni@es  of  the  21st  century.    It  is  key  to  restoring  faith  in  government,  repairing  the  breach  between  government  and  its ci@zens,  and  delivering  the  services  that  will  make  our  society  more  just,  fair,  and  prosperous.
  • 34. 33 •Don’t  stop  believing  that  government  can  work,  and   can  be  a  force  for  good •2015  Fellows  Applica4on  Deadline  July  31,  2014 •2014  Accelerator  Applica4on  Deadline  May  15,  2014 •Get  your  city  involved  -­‐  codeforamerica.org/ci4es •Join  a  Brigade  near  you  -­‐  codeforamerica.org/brigade •Follow  @codeforamerica  for  news  and  progress •Donate  -­‐  codeforamerica.org/donate How  You  Can  Help Saturday, May 10, 14 How  can  you  help?