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Rewiring Government

The Department of Better Technology helps governments deliver great digital services to the people who depend on them.

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Welcome, Becca!

We’re happy to announce the newest addition to our team, Rebecca Moore.

Becca joins us from the California Department of Parks and Recreation, where she gained first-hand experience with the many challenges that front-line government workers face. This makes her the perfect addition to our growing customer success team, as well as an adept project manager for some of our larger clients.

Becca also joins me and Kari as the team’s third California-native. She graduated from UC Davis in 2013 with honors in Classics and high honors in History.

Welcome, Becca!

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Follow @beccamoore09 on Twitter →

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Designing a better authentication system for Screendoor respondents

Last month, we rethought the way that respondents to our customers’ hosted forms authenticate themselves. Previously, we required respondents to create an account, which adds unnecessary friction. We redesigned the system to deliver all of the benefits of account creation with none of the downsides, taking cues from the “passwordless authentication” movement.

We wanted to give you a look into the problems we identified with our old system, the design process we used to iterate upon user flows, and how we migrated to the new system with minimal impact to our users.

But, first, if you want to try out the new system, check out one of our sample forms to see it in action.

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Interview: Rachel Lunsford on creating the Blue Button program and “Midwestern nice”

Quote from Rachel Lunsford, excerpted from the transcript below.

In this episode of Rewiring Government, Josh talks to Rachel Lunsford, the project manager of the Blue Button Initiative at the Veteran Affairs Agency. They discuss the program’s development, managers who say “yes,” user feedback, and using “Midwestern nice” to get things done.

Use the player above to listen, or subscribe on iTunes and Google Play! You can also add our RSS feed to your favorite podcast app. If you like this episode, rate and review us on iTunes, and tell your friends.

A lightly edited transcript is below.

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DOBT joins 500 Startups

I’m happy to announce that the Department of Better Technology is the first GovTech company to be accepted into 500 Startups, a prominent Bay Area accelerator program.

This is great news, not just for our company, but for the entire GovTech sector. We’ve known for a long time that government has the potential to become a startup-friendly SaaS category. When there is a job to be done, smart people in government want to be able to choose the best software to help them achieve their goals. They want software that is easily configurable, automatically updated, and beautifully designed. This notion has been validated by our amazing customers who have said “no” to the status quo of legacy vendors, onerous consulting contracts, and software from the 1990s.

A small handful of keen investors have recognized and supported companies working in this space. However, getting into 500 Startups is another signal that the VC community as a whole is starting to take GovTech more seriously, and that our customers don’t just represent iconoclasts and outsiders, but are part of a seachange in how people in government are thinking about and purchasing software to help them get things done.

When we got started, a common refrain in Washington and Silicon Valley was, “You can be a company that builds great software, or you can be a company that sells to government, but you can’t be both.” We are thrilled that the software industry, investors, and most importantly our customers are recognizing that this dichotomy no longer rings true.

Introducing our podcast, Rewiring Government

Every day, we talk to people in government who are interested in pushing their city, state or federal agency to become a better provider of digital services. They frequently ask us for advice and we are happy to share.

One thing struck us recently: despite living and breathing GovTech, we know only a fraction of the stories and hard-won lessons from our colleagues working in the guts of government to make change.

That’s why we’re going to try something new: the Rewiring Government podcast. Starting with the Presidential Innovation Fellows, the Code for America fellows, and other GovTech leaders, we’ll dig deep to identify how change in government actually happens.

Rewiring Government will feature:

  • Big Thinking and Implementation. We want to hear stories from people who are willing to both think big and get their hands dirty with the implementation details.

  • Optimism and Earnestness. We want to explore how to navigate the institutional pressures aligned against change makers. It’s easy to be cynical in these contexts, but we won’t be.

  • Operationally Relevant Advice. Every experience is unique and idiosyncratic, but we are convinced that there are generalizable lessons and an audience that is hungry to hear them. Beyond technical best practices, we want to hear what it takes to make an implementation a success.

We’re also excited about this podcast because we think it can be a first cut of history of Obama-era GovTech innovation. So much has happened at every level of government since 2009, so as we enter the last year or so of this particular chapter of GovTech, we think this podcast can help capture these important lessons.

I really enjoyed speaking with our first two guests. Right now, you can hear Justin Erlich, the Data and Technology Advisor to California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Soon, we’ll have Rachel Lunsford, former product manager for the Blue Button at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Enjoy!

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