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Building the Basics

The Department of Better Technology is dedicated to making great software that helps governments and non-profits better serve their communities.

Screendoor logo

Screendoor: online forms for grownups.

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Introducing Shortcuts for workflow automation

Behind every form is a unique workflow process. While some forms require a single approval, others go through multiple rounds of sign-offs. The greater the number of manual tasks involved, the greater the chance of human error.

Automating the steps in your workflow can reduce misunderstanding among your team, prevent responses from slipping through the cracks, and enable you to close the loop with both colleagues and respondents. Plus, it’ll save time spent carrying out tasks one by one.

Today we’re introducing Shortcuts, a new feature that brings workflow automation to Screendoor.

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Our “New Client Guide,” and how we educate government about Software-as-a-Service

When purchasing software, government tends to play by a fixed set of rules.

First, stakeholders are convened, requirements checklists are created, and RFPs are issued. For entirely custom-developed systems, the work might take years to complete, if not decades. A popular alternative is to purchase software as “Commercial off-the-shelf” (COTS), a practice which aims to reduce risk and time-to-delivery, but still results in the same failings as custom-developed software. These are the two most popular methods that the federal government uses to purchase software, yet they’re practically designed for failure. The Standish Group reports that 94% of these large-scope projects fail in one way or another.

A big part of our mission at DOBT is to change these rules.

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The Data Revolution Has a Software Problem

In Dodoma, Tanzania’s administrative capital, a group of visibly frustrated economists and statisticians discussed their work inside a sweltering room. They were from the nearby Singida Region, and they were on the front lines of what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called the Data Revolution, an effort to find innovative data collection methods that can measure progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Their day-to-day work is helping to answer an important question. Given primary school enrollment rates, immunization rates, agricultural productivity, and other important quantitative indicators, how well are the people of Singida actually faring?

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DOBT at the Code for America Summit

The DOBT team will be at the Code for America Summit in Oakland this week! As in previous years, we look forward to seeing on display a mix of grit and pragmatic optimism that’s characteristic of a community we’re proud to be a part of.

Oakland skyline

Here are some of the sessions we have our eye on:

If you spot one of us, make sure to say hi! Let’s talk open data production, form design, remote work meetings, or all of the above.

Image used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Public infrastructure and government IT have a lot in common


Our public infrastructure is in bad shape. A federal report from 2006 deemed 70,000 bridges “structurally deficient,” the American Society of Civil Engineers gives our infrastructure a “D+” grade, and the issue has even been featured on popular television programs like 60 Minutes and The Daily Show. But when it comes time to spend money on this vital infrastructure, our governments are reluctant to open the pocketbook until we reach a time of crisis.

Government IT is no different.

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