Civic Engagement was named the Breakout Trend of SXSW Interactive after President Obama delivered a powerful pitch to the tech community to start paying attention to their government and participate in civic engagement. While Obama didn’t have the time to go into detail on how people can get engaged, here are several projects offered by the US government for members of the tech community who want to make a difference.
The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) Program
The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) can simply be described as the Peace Corps for nerds. The PIF is a highly competitive program that recruits innovators and technologists from outside the government to find solutions to the issues forming as we transform into a digital age. Each fellow serves for 12 months in a fast-paced startup-like environment where they work with other fellows on transforming ideas into tangible, game-changing initiatives and solutions. One project created by the fellows is the Veterans Employment Center, which streamlines employment resources for veterans to one website and has resulted in over $27 million in cost savings. Another is the SunShot Innovative, which focuses on making low-cost solar energy available to homeowners and communities and is projected to save over $1.98 billion taxpayer dollars by 2020.
Aspiring Fellows can apply online at https://presidentialinnovationfellows.gov/
The U.S. Digital Service
Similar to PIF is the US Digital Service, where the most capable problem solvers in the country can serve up to one year tours of duty in performing critical services, like managing healthcare and student loans, as easy to do online as ordering a pizza. This program strives to use the best product design and engineering practices to change frustrating and cumbersome government tools into modern, user-friendly services for this digital age. For example, after the problem-riddled launch of Healthcare.gov in 2013, a team of US Digital Service engineers went in to support the day-to-day operations of the site to help 6 million Americans enroll. They then transformed, updated, and simplified Healthcare.gov’s design and infrastructure for a successful re-launch of the site for the November 2014 enrollment period.
Find out more at https://www.whitehouse.gov/digital/united-states-digital-service
The Opportunity Project
For those who aren’t tech saavy and still want to be civically engaged, check out serve.gov to find volunteer opportunities in your area.