President-elect Barack Obama’s agency transition teams are not just asking basic questions. Federal officials who have briefed these transition teams say they are more knowledgeable and better prepared than any transition team in the past.
And the questions they are asking are not just about how the agency or office works, but how they can serve the citizens better, differently, faster and more openly.
“From what I’ve seen and in talking with the transition team, the key words are mass collaboration,” says Lisa Schlosser, outgoing chief information officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Open government, innovation and change are the things that epitomize what you will see over the next year.”
Schlosser, who will be moving to the Environmental Protection Agency as the director of the Office of Information Collection, says President-elect Obama’s use of YouTube for his weekly address and the requests for input on Change.gov are setting the stage for how the next administration will use technology over the next four years.
Schlosser spoke Thursday during a breakfast panel discussion in Bethesda, Md., sponsored by AFCEA’s Bethesda chapter.
Stephen Warren, Deputy CIO at the Veteran Affairs Department, adds that the transition team is asking his agency about specific approaches and how they are using data to connect programs and results.
“They want to use data to make decisions and we will see more of that,” Warren says. “The people coming in know the issues and know where to focus in the agency. When the new team comes in, it will be a transition of people, but not of issues.”
Warren says the Obama transition team developed an application for Apple’s iPhone that pushes information out to users. He foresees VA using something like that to give information about benefits to veterans.
HUD too recognized not only the next administration’s support of Web 2.0 technologies, but its own needs as well. HUD has unblocked employee access to YouTube from their desktops.
Schlosser says after careful analysis of security risks and the affect on agency bandwidth, HUD decided to let employees view YouTube.
“We realized our security tools are pretty good and our bandwidth is good, so why are we blocking it?” Schlosser says. “We opened it up. We will see how it goes and if there are problems or security concerns, we will relook at the decision.”
HUD will start using YouTube to promote its support of mortgages. Schlosser says the Federal Housing Administration will post about 10 videos on YouTube discussing its support of mortgages.
Schlosser says users will be able to provide feedback and there will be interactive blogging.
HUD also is updating its security policy to address employee use of YouTube. Schlosser says the policy update is just getting started, but HUD is talking to federal and private sector organizations about how they deal with Web 2.0 security policies.
Schlosser says another reason for opening up YouTube is because there were a lot of videos on YouTube that talked about FHA, and many were wrong.
HUD also has added a requirement to its infrastructure contract for their vendors, EDS and Lockheed Martin, to bring examples, and to brief business and mission employees on emerging technologies.
“We want to know what technology can bring to the business and what the responsibilities are when using them,” she says.