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

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

  • @codeforamerica Technology and Trust: The Challenge of 21st Century Government Tim OReilly @timoreilly TEDx Market Street May 10, 2014 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 Im actually here to talk about something that is perhaps even more fundamental. And it starts here...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Saturday, May 10, 14 But theres 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.
  • 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 Saturday, May 10, 14 Even when government tries to do digital, we get messes like It doesnt have to be that way. But when the government does end up building technology that doesnt work and costs way too much, not only do [email protected] get gypped, but it breaks our trust in government.
  • 7 Saturday, May 10, 14 Democracies get their strength from the peoples 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 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 isnt just a maGer of geHng smart tech people into government - thats 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 Saturday, May 10, 14 The problems with 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 didnt know how to manage the project. But the problem started here, with a 900+ page [email protected] (the Aordable Care Act) plus tens of thousands of pages of [email protected] [email protected] 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 [email protected] 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://[email protected]_c9f1fa54-d041-11e1-9d01-0019bb2963f4.html and hTp://[email protected]/2013/05/14/61eec914-bcf9-11e2-9b09-1638acc3942e_blog.html )
  • 10 Saturday, May 10, 14 The UKs 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 aect 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 [email protected] [email protected]@on go through the roof, and has won plaudits from everyone.
  • 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 theyve 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 UKs Government Digital Service Design Principles.
  • 12 Saturday, May 10, 14 The rst of these is to start with needs - user needs, not government needs. This is so [email protected] The GDS works a lot like any Silicon Valley startup. They [email protected] a problem area, and learn how to solve it incrementally, with a build-measure-learn cycle.
  • 13 Saturday, May 10, 14 Code for America follows the same approach. Our agship 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.
  • @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 citys website.
  • Saturday, May 10, 14 With only three fellows, they couldnt take on the task of rebuilding the content for the [email protected] website. So what they did instead was to build a site that beTer conformed to the way people look for [email protected] Theyre usually looking for quick answers or steps for [email protected] they need to take and a site that looks like this is really [email protected] to navigate. How ojen have you come to a government website like this, full of press releases ([email protected] government needs, not [email protected] needs).
  • Saturday, May 10, 14 So they built Honolulu Answers, a super-simple and elegant search interface that allows [email protected] to enter keywords or [email protected] and get quick answers.
  • 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 citys call center to nd 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 drivers license information was one of the top searches. (In Hawaii, the city manages this for the state.)
  • 18 Saturday, May 10, 14 Take a look at the citys [email protected] start page of drivers license [email protected], complete with such need to know [email protected] as the fact that the drivers licensing [email protected] have a new statewide computer/camera licensing system! We even have a link to a picture of a drivers license. But the [email protected] about how to get one is hard to nd. Thats what [email protected] really want. This is the kin