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Obama Pushes for Efficient, Modern Government

in Broadband's Impact/Transparency by

WASHINGTON, January 14, 2010 – The federal government must embrace the type of technological innovation and experimentation that has borne fruit in the private sector, President Obama said Thursday at a White House forum on modernizing government.

Bringing the government into the 21st Century is critical, he said, and the “technology revolution that has transformed society over the last decade has yet to reach government offices.”

Obama acknowledged that there are still many offices in the federal government where “reams of manila files” and envelopes are walked from desk to desk because of lack of technology use to transfer their contents digitally.

Obama singled out the Patent and Trademark Office as one of the worst cases of failing to become modernized. He said while 80 percent of patent applications are filed electronically, the agency manually prints out those applications and then scans them and enters them manually into a case management system.

“When Washington lags a generation behind in how we do business, that has a real and serious impact on people’s lives,” he told the audience of tech executives and others.

He said that it’s evident the tools and technology solutions are out there, adding that if many Americans are able to book a dinner reservation online, why shouldn’t a citizen be able to make an appointment at the local Social Security Administration office or check on citizenship status via a Web site without having to send a paper letter?

“It’s not about the fanciest bells and whistles,” he said, “it’s about how to use tax dollars to make government work better for [Americans].”

At Kickoff of FCC Workshops, Genachowski Calls Broadband ‘Infrastructure Challenge of the Generation’

in FCC Workshops/National Broadband Plan/Transparency by

Editor’s Note: BroadbandBreakfast.com has been actively covering the workshops of the Federal Communications Commission as the agency prepares its national broadband plan. We have covered all of the workshops since late August. In preparation for assembling the complete collection of articles, BroadbandBreakfast.com reporters are returning to the beginning of the of workshops, on August 6, 2009. To see the complete collection of articles, click here.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski began the first in an extensive series of agency workshops on August 6, 2009, with a statement about that the workshops were intended to evaluate how increased broadband internet access could improve the efficiency and transparency of government.

“Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of our generation,” said Genachowski. “It is to us what railroads, electricity, highways, telephones were to previous generations.” Chairman Genachowski explained that broadband will serve as “a platform for commerce, for addressing major national problems, and for civic engagement.”

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra elaborated on the promise of increased broadband access and how it could increase the efficiency of the federal government through crowd-sourced applications and increased teleworking programs.

Kundra held up the Patent and Trademark Office and Government Accountability Office as models of broadband-centric innovation in government. He said other government agencies could cut costs and maintain robust continuity of government plans through increased telework programs.

Graham Richard, former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, described his experience increasing broadband penetration in Fort Wayne. As mayor, Richard implemented numerous broadband-centric networking programs which reduced crime and streamlined the delivery of city services.

Digital mapping technology through Geographic Information Systems reduced the time needed to fill potholes from four days to four hours. On-line learning options dramatically increased the number of courses available to local students through collaboration with local universities.

When asked what advantages he thought increased broadband access brought to work environments, Richard said “the workroom environment serves to bring people together so they can convene, connect, and collaborate’ to create new solutions for today’s problems. What broadband does is increase that space for innovation a factor of a million.”

Government transparency was the final focus of the workshop. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute noted the Obama-Coburn bill’s success in publishing all non-classified federal contracts online. Ornstein and John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation expressed interest in current efforts to require the publishing of earmarks online though no such legislation has been introduced in either chamber.

The Internet’s effect on campaign finance, community activism, and public information campaigns were also discussed at the FCC workshop. The next workshop, on August 12, 2009, focused on issues relating to the deployment of wired broadband infrastructure.

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