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White House seeks ‘badass innovators’

Federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park

Federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park // World Bank photo

This story has been updated.

The White House is seeking 20 high-powered Web and mobile developers for short-term assignments aimed at reducing the government’s online footprint, making agency data more accessible and rendering federal contracting less onerous for small businesses, federal Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said Wednesday.

The Presidential Innovation Fellows program will start in July, Park said at a TechCrunch conference in New York City.

“Basically, what we’re looking for is badass innovators," he said. "[For] the baddest of the badasses out there to come to the government for focused six-to-12 month tours of duty to partner with our best innovators on game-changing projects . . . The idea is to work in a lean startup mode [and to] score a lot of significant points within six months.”

The initiative is similar to the government’s Entrepreneurs in Residence Program, which has been managed on a less formal, agency-by-agency level, with backing from Park and federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel.

Park and VanRoekel also launched a long-awaited Government Digital Roadmap at Wednesday’s event, aimed at reducing federal spending on mobile devices and making more government information easily accessible on any device.

The innovation fellows will work on five main assignments, Park said.

One project, called MyGov, aims to create a more rational way for citizens to navigate the federal Web footprint. Officials have been working on a dot-gov reform strategy since mid-2011. VanRoekel and Park also announced Wednesday that they’ve ordered a freeze on new Web domains.

Another project, called RFP-EZ, aims to cut down on technological bureaucracy in federal contracting. A third is focused on using electronic rather than cash payments for foreign development assistance to reduce graft and fraud.

The final two projects are intended to make government data more accessible and give citizens better online and mobile access to their health records.

The fellows will be based in Washington, Park said. They will be employed through temporary hiring vehicles and paid based on rates established by the agencies they are assigned to, he said.

Clarification: This story was updated to clarify that Todd Park provided the information in the final paragraph and to clarify the vehicles through wich the fellows will be hired. 

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