Obama is Helping Cities Modernize the Experience of Government. Here’s How You Can Get Involved.

The authors’ message to the tech crowd at Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, pictured above:(Photo: The Statesman)

This is a guest post by Megan Smith and Maria Contreras-Sweet. The post originally appeared here.

This past Friday President Obama spoke at South by Southwest, and his reason for being in Austin was clear. The President and this Administration are committed to modernizing the experience of government for the American people, and much of this transformation is occurring through engaging teams collaboratively together across and outside of government to leverage advances in technology and innovation.

Every day, millions of Americans interact with the Federal government. We apply for Social Security benefits and small business loans. We look for affordable health insurance and financial aid. We need passports and tax refunds. Much too often, these processes and interactions can be frustrating and cumbersome because of outdated tools and unreliable systems. We believe that government is ready for a change.


Here is our message not just for the crowd at SXSW, but for digital innovation talent everywhere: We need people like you to take on these high-stakes challenges, to apply the skills and practices you’ve honed by joining colleagues in government to work together on untangling problems and simplifying solutions for millions of Americans. Many are already contributing to our mission, and there are ways for you to get involved today.

There are many ways to serve across the Federal government including several teams specifically formed to integrate top tech talent into the Federal government. These teams are using the best of product design, user experience, and engineering practices working together with experts already in government to transform the way government works for the American people. Together, teams of America’s most capable problem solvers are striving to make critical services—like healthcare, student loans, and veterans’ benefits—as simple as buying a book online. You can visit the following links to learn more about how you can join the U.S. Digital ServicePresidential Innovation Fellows, or the General Services Administration’s 18F.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet with entrepreneurs in April 2015 in Chicago, a Startup in a Day city. (Photo: SBA)

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet with entrepreneurs in April 2015 in Chicago, a Startup in a Day city. (Photo: SBA)


The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a prime example of how an agency can use technology and innovation to transform its daily interactions with Americans. Today we are proud to announce that in partnership with the U.S. Digital Service, the SBA has recruited top tech talent to form a new Digital Service team, dedicated to supercharging SBA’s ongoing efforts, reimagining our systems and processes for serving American entrepreneurs.

One such development is a platform called LINC, which allows potential borrowers to go online, enter information about their business, and be matched to nearby SBA lenders that are likely to offer them a loan. This is especially important for entrepreneurs in underserved and rural markets who might have difficulty accessing capital. To date LINC has made more than 35,000 matches of unique borrowers to lenders and has tangibly changed the way small businesses interact with the SBA. But LINC is only part of the story—SBA’s Digital Service team will play an important role in dramatically simplifying the agency’s capital and contracting programs for entrepreneurs. The SBA needs your help to continue on this trajectory, so please e-mail tech@sba.gov to learn how you can get involved in the SBA’s efforts.

 SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announcing the Startup in a Day initiative with entrepreneurs in Boston, June 11, 2015. (Photo: SBA)

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announcing the Startup in a Day initiative with entrepreneurs in Boston, June 11, 2015. (Photo: SBA)


Outside of the Federal level, you can also get involved locally. Another SBA-led initiative is Startup in a Day, which the President highlighted in his 2016 State of the Union address in January. Last year President Obama called on mayors across America to take a pledge to cut through red tape and make it easier than ever for entrepreneurs to get started. U.S. entrepreneurs spend nearly 6 days discovering, applying for, and managing licenses and permits before opening their doors, according to a 2015 study by the World Bank Group.

The goal of the Startup in a Day initiative is to make it possible for entrepreneurs to submit everything needed to get started in less than 24 hours. To date, more than eighty cities have signed on to the pledge, and the number is growing. By year’s end, more than 35 million Americans should have the tools they need to start a business within a day. We hope to double the number of pledged cities in the coming months, so if your city has yet to take the pledge, please visit your local City Hall and ask them to join the Startup in a Day movement. To learn more about this initiative and how you can be involved, e-mail startup@sba.gov with your interest and visit www.sba.gov/startup.

 Startup in a Day Locations. (Photo: ArcGIS)

Startup in a Day Locations. (Photo: ArcGIS)


Service is one of our proudest American traditions. For generations, many of our best and brightest have looked for a way to contribute to their communities, their country, and the human race. Through military service, millions have risked their own personal safety—even their lives—to protect our country and promote peace and democracy around the world. Through the Peace Corps, young Americans dedicate years to improving living conditions in some of the world’s most impoverished countries. And through AmeriCorps, our citizens roll up their sleeves in our small towns and urban centers to help educate our children and create opportunities for a better future.

An emerging generation of American technologists, disruptors, designers, computer scientists, and engineers can continue this proud tradition by lending their critical skills to government. If you’ve ever lamented that government lags too far behind the private sector when it comes to automation and innovation, this is your chance to be a part of the solution.

Today, we call on qualified Americans to answer a new 21st century call to serve by making their government work better. We call on you to contribute your unique talents to drive our future. Your expertise can help our government work as hard and smart for our entrepreneurs as they work for their employees, their customers, and their communities.

Together, we can bring the best of private-sector customer service to our public institutions by welcoming a new generation of tech talent into our ranks. By shaking up stale bureaucracies and reimagining government services, these experts can make a real difference for Americans who are counting on their government to get it right.

About the Authors:

Megan Smith is the United States Chief Technology Officer (CTO). She was appointed by President Barack Obama in September 2014.

Maria Contreras-Sweet is the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). She was appointed by President Barack Obama in April 2014.

Megan Smith
United States Chief Technology Officer
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