Former FOIA officer worries new bill poses IT challenges
February 27, 2015
The legislation could make it difficult for agencies to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Frederick Sadler, a former FOIA Officer for the FDA.
General Services Administration’s Gwynne Kostin discusses the new Digital Services Innovation Center, established as part of the White House’s federal government digital strategy, in this interview with FedScoop Radio. Kostin was named to lead the new center in June.
Below, is an edited transcript of the interview.
FedScoop : So, let’s start from the beginning for those who aren’t familiar with the new digital strategy, and there may be a few. Can you give an overview of its general objective and what it’s working towards?
Kostin: Sure, I always love to talk about the digital strategy, because this strategy is building on the work that we have been working on over the past number of years recognizing that people are interacting in new and increasingly more digital ways.
This work has been going through; this work has been done in an egov project, opengov projects recent emphasis, actually old emphasis on customer experiences. This is really part of an extension on a line of work that’s been done since government has been looking at making services available over the internet.
The bottom line is really about delivering government to the public anytime anywhere on any device in a secure manner.
As far as objectives it very much explicitly recognizes the way that we are doing the work for government is not immune to the changes in technology either. So, that we are working on the citizens case and side, but also the strategy, really talks about our internal processes and making the most of digital services to improve efficiency and deliver services in smart, secure and affordable ways.
The third part about the strategy really is kind of throwing in that emphasis on innovation and encouraging reuse of government through web services. So, putting those together we really have a focus on citizens, where they are and delivering those services, focusing on doing government work better and emphasizing innovation.
FedScoop : As part of the new strategy, the digital services and innovation center was established and you are heading that up, can you talk about what the center is, what you’re role is going to be and your involvement?
Kostin: The Digital Services and Innovation Center was established as a key component to support the goals of the digital strategy was created to provide leadership, coordination and support to agencies implementing the strategy. The idea, really, is that there should be some way to help agencies do a better job.
Our job is really to work on identifying practices that are effective to document those and redistribute them. We are really looking at ways to build once and use many times, and that’s really what the function of the center is.
It’s not so much something new, though. This really is an extension of the work we have been doing in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at GSA. And the work that’s been done as far as helping identify best practices and good customer service for web managers, the work that’s being done for Data.gov, it's really related to the cloud services that have been offered in terms of the being able to make sure that agencies can use and benefit from the work other agencies have been doing.
So, it’s really an extension of the work we have been doing but focusing really on the digital space. And then, as you know, I have been working in the mobile space for the past 18 months and, for me, this is really an extension of the work we’ve been doing. When we started working in mobile, we were really thinking about devices, and we were really thinking about apps.
But what we have seen, and this is really my thinking and the work we have been doing, has really been evolving at the same time. It’s really about mobile. It's not the device, but the information and the people, and this digital strategy is really working to bring those two pieces together, and I’m really fortunate to be able to participate in it.
FedScoop: It’s a big ocean out there. How do you plan on reaching out, working with agencies and getting everyone on the same page?
Kostin: Getting everyone on the same page is a huge piece of it, and what we are going to be doing is working on the conduits that are already in existence. The genesis of the strategy is a good example of that. Originally when the strategy was being developed there was a couple different lines.
There was a web reform work that was going on and creating a web strategy. A few months later there was an independently related mobile strategy that was being developed. These are different audiences to some degree and there is some overlap. Working within these different audiences we were able to create and bring the two pieces together to have a more digital strategy.
Our ways to communicate are to take advantage of and use these communities that already exist. There are open gov communities that are in government that we are reaching out to.
The data communities inside and outside of government are important. Innovation groups that are working in the areas of challenges Of course the MobileGov community of practice.
The federal web managers, the CIO Council and many sub agencies within the council. One of the things that we have now that we didn’t have looking from a historical perspective is we have a lot more ways to communicate with people much more quickly. Using tools like emails and blogs and fortunate enough to do an out reach with you today.
FedScoop: [U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven] VanRoekel mentioned a small team. Talk about the roles and who’s doing what?
Kostin: There is a small core team that we are working with here out of GSA. The folks that are working here are different specialists and people that are extending some of the work that they’ve been doing.
We are working through the Digital government University who is training and informational arm to provide webinars and again this is an extension of the work that they have been doing. We will be publishing information and best practices on tools that we have on HowTo.gov, as well as the MobileWiki.
There is also areas that Data.gov and data communities have been working on as well. The most important part is that this digital strategy is not housed in just one part of government so we are looking for innovators all throughout all different agencies to see what thy are doing how they can tribute.
The thing that was really impressive to me was when this digital strategy was released on May 23 there was this huge outpouring and people were really excited and really see the potential of unlocking info, using web services and really opening government in a lot of ways to break down the silos and provide better services.
[We're] already working with USDA, from FCC and some great innovators at EPA, State Department, Homeland Security. A lot of agencies are doing really interesting work, and we are looking to identify those and amplify that.
FedScoop: If people are looking for more about getting involved, how can they connect?
Kostin: The best way to get a hold of the center is to go online at www.gsa.gov/digitailgov and that will give some basic information about the center. Another thing is if people are looking to get information about the strategy and the milestones, you can also go to www.whitehouse.gov/digitalgov.
[audio:http://fedscoop.com/radio/wp-content/uploads/Gwynne-Kostin.mp3|titles=Jumpstarting the new federal government Digital Services Innovation Center]