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GSA's digital incubator tackles contracting, hiring times

May. 9, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
18F Demo Day
Presidential Innivation Fellow Aaron Snow, left, talks about FBOpen with attendee Akbar Khawaja during the 18F demo day at the GSA Headquarters. (Rob Curtis/Staff)

The General Services wants to break down contracting barriers, streamline purchasing and development processes and cut hiring times in its efforts to transform government and its delivery of services.

The agency’s 18F digital services incubator is tackling issues across government in order to disrupt inefficient traditions and replace them with flexible, cost-effective and more user-friendly ways of conducting government business.

People expect to be able to interact with their government using a range of technologies and agencies should break down barriers to service delivery, administrator Dan Tangherlini said at an 18F demo day May 9.

The 18F group will be working on ways to improve government functions and save money through fast development and a focus on user experience and open platforms, he said.

“We are really interested in getting the best of those ideas and finding ways to get those into the bloodstream of the federal government,” Tangherlini said.

Some of 18F’s current projects include:

■ FBOpen: The project takes the data available from FedBizOpps and allows users to easily search the contracts and attachments for business opportunities. The FBOpen effort also includes an interface that allows other agencies or private companies to display contracting opportunities on their own websites. Presidential Innovation Fellow Aaron Snow said the tool can help open up the playing field for small businesses and build a larger, more diverse contractor network.

■ Hacking Bureaucracy: The project attempts to cut out unneeded processes to help agencies cut down on hiring times and software deployment schedules. The 18F team has been able to cut the possible hiring times for agencies from six to nine months to less than eight weeks by focusing on IT jobs that can be done in term contract positions and removing uneeded barriers.

■ CommuniCart: The 18F team is working to track the approval process for purchases using purchase cards to help show who still needs to approve each purchase. The tool can help cut down the total time spent on approving purchases by an hour.

The 18F team is also working to help provide tools and platforms for other agencies to innovate and to demonstrate techniques other agencies can use to help build websites or tools faster than before, according to GSA.

Greg Godbout, a presidential innovation fellow at GSA, said agencies can duplicate 18F efforts to reduce hiring times in order to reap the same rewards without having to go through an extensive process.

“We put together something that if agencies follow all the steps on can really hiring times,” he said.

Tangherlini said 18F will keep working to develop innovative ideas and work with agencies on how to improve the way they deliver digital services and interact with the public.

“It’s really the first step in a much longer journey in transforming the way we deliver services,” he said.■

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