Trump tech office looks to improve customer experience

A senior White House tech adviser said that administration's priorities include improving citizen-facing services, shared services and pushing open government legislation.

Shutterstock image (Dencg) : digital government concept.

A senior White House tech adviser said that administration priorities include improving citizen-facing services, shared services and pushing open government legislation.

The Jared Kushner-led tech office was established to modernize government through both upgrading its tech infrastructure and aligning its practices with those from the private sector.

Matt Lira, a senior White House adviser on tech issues and member of the modernization office, said he sees the role of OAI as a coordinator of various stakeholders -- including CIOs, CFOs, deputies and the Office of Management and Budget -- with the goal of improving not just tech, but also reworking underlying businesses processes.

"Getting cybersecurity and modernization right is an important enough problem that is going to require as many stakeholders weighing in as possible to improve and give a policy direction," he said, in remarks at a Sept. 19 event hosted by Government Executive. Lira added that OAI "is not really about replicating or trying to subsume any one entity's role, particularly the CIO Council" or the federal CIO.

Lira specifically pointed to improving citizen-facing experiences as a top priority that the office wants to tackle as "rapidly as we can," and that the office's small size can help it "outlast our tenure, by design" and keep up with technological developments.

The ultimate aim of improving government's customer services to match the public's expectations set by online retailers "will take time," Lira cautioned. However, he added that OAI's goal has both the backing of cabinet secretaries and members from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.

"We've found willing partners from both sides of the equation on the Hill because everyone recognizes this is a big problem that needs to be tackled," he said.

Lira added that he was "really heartened" that the bipartisan MGT Act had "cleared its most substantive hurdle" in making its way to the president's desk, and that its passage could serve as a model for achieving legislative wins in the IT modernization space.

Other priorities he said OAI is looking at include boosting cybersecurity governmentwide, as well as improving computer science education in schools and technological infrastructure to "touch innovation within government and the economy writ large."

He also said OAI is interested in pushing a CIO-led effort that explores for what projects expanding shared services makes sense to cut duplicative modernization efforts "when all these agencies are trying to do the same thing."

In addition to the federal CIO role, several cabinet-agencies still lack a permanent CIO. Lira said that filling these positions was "ongoing," adding, "the CIO roles are incredibly important in this equation."