Federal Tech Chief Touts Data-Driven Innovation

Caitlin Fairchild/Nextgov.com

Evidence-based approach to spending works for tech, why not the rest of government?

Lessons the White House has learned about using quantitative data to make federal information technology projects more efficient and effective can be put to use helping non-technology government programs as well, federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel told an industry group on Friday.

President Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget request includes $14 million for a data driven innovation fund, $8 million of which would go to existing programs to make information technology projects more efficient and $6 million of which would be directed to non-IT initiatives across government.

 “This is going to be very data driven, very rigorous and transparent,” VanRoekel told members of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s Bethesda chapter. “We will collect data and we’ll put that data online. We’re going to start to bring in behavioral scientists to figure out low cost intervention ways of driving behavior.”

As an example of behavioral intervention, VanRoekel cited a British government study that sent a series of different letters to delinquent taxpayers. It turned out the letter that told people how many of their neighbors had paid their taxes on time had better results than letters that didn’t invoke any peer pressure.

Part of the IT-focused portion of the fund will be devoted to expanding VanRoekel’s PortfolioStat program, a top-to-bottom review of how agencies are spending and saving money in their IT budgets. VanRoekel has credited PortfolioStat with saving the government $300 million so far and with identifying an additional $2.5 billion in potential savings.

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