Summary: The White House is hosting its first-ever Electric Vehicle Datathon, and nominations for participation are now open. Don’t miss your chance to join the discussion! The White House Domestic Policy Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy will convene its first-ever Electric Vehicle (EV) Datathon on November 29. This event, held in partnership with the Department of Energy and four of its National Laboratories will bring together EV experts, charging-station providers, cities and states, automakers, and the software-development and data-analysis communities.
The Energy Department launched Direct Current, our first podcast, on May 9. The first episode—all about rooftop solar, as well as the history of our agency—has been well-received so far by press, stakeholders, and the general public. One review stuck out. Headlined “From out of nowhere, the U.S. Energy Department launches a great podcast,” it underscored that most people might not realize how much work and planning actually went into creating our first 25-minute episode.
A branch that does not stick to its source of nutrition will wither away and die. Just ask anyone who has received a bouquet of beautiful flowers about how long they really last. In the same way, as communicators we must stay connected to our audience, or we risk the chance of fading away into insignificance. First-time visitors are great, but return visitors are your loyal following. In the argument of whether to target your current audience or seek to grow more, why not stick your focus on equipping your current audience with ways and incentives to share your content?
With more than 400 projects in their portfolio, it can be difficult for the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to adequately convey the scope of the office’s work. The team can list their projects, organize them by program area, and write blog posts about them, but none of that has the same impact as seeing all of the projects displayed on an interactive map. Audiences are now able to click on a map, zoom to different sections and click onto icons to explore the diverse and wonderful world of the SunShot solar energy research and development portfolio.
It began with a history lesson and ended with an eye to the future. In between, the Expert Training Series: How to Design & Operate Prizes to Maximize Success covered nearly every aspect of what it takes to run successful incentivized competitions. Challenge.gov and DigitalGov University partnered with XPRIZE Foundation to bring together expert speakers from across the federal government and industry for seven webinars that began last summer and ran through January.
DigitalGov’s theme this month is mobile moments, which explores the impact of mobile applications in the federal government. For this post, I am examining the more than 300 mobile apps created by the federal government. An updated list of federal mobile apps is on USA.gov. According to the list, 73 federal organizations have released mobile apps on a wide variety of topics. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has the most mobile apps with 31 releases.
In a call to action issued Oct. 7, the White House announced several new programs challenging citizens to help federal agencies solve problems in areas ranging from space exploration to education. Hosted in conjunction with Georgetown University, the Case Foundation and the Joyce Foundation, the event featured activities and discussions aimed at creating more ambitious and effective cross-sector prize competitions. Tom Kalil, deputy director for technology and innovation for White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), used the forum to issue a challenge of his own to the invite-only crowd, which consisted of prize experts from government, industry and academia.
In our personal lives, most of us barely pay attention to Terms of Service (TOS) agreements. But in our professional lives, as federal employees, mindlessly clicking through a TOS is not an option. The DigitalGov article Getting to Yes: Working with Vendors to Secure Terms of Service and Federal Friendly Pricing explored the legal dilemmas that arise when negotiating TOS agreements for government use of tools, and how federal employees can communicate the benefits of federal-friendly agreements to businesses.
Behind every great innovation is a team. And behind successful innovation teams are efficient tools, processes, and most importantly, people. The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative funds projects that make solar energy more affordable and accessible for Americans. As part of the initiative, the SunShot Catalyst open innovation program seeks to rapidly deliver solar solutions through prize challenges. Catalyst has been recognized as a leader in the innovation field. The International Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM) recently awarded Catalyst the ISPIM Grand Prize 2015 for excellence in innovation management.
I recently found an app that provides a great service through crowdsourcing. Be My Eyes connects visually-impaired people with volunteers. Using the smartphone’s camera, the volunteers can perform tasks such as reading an expiration date or helping someone navigate unfamiliar surroundings. This is not a federal app, but I wanted to highlight it to demonstrate how crowdsourcing apps can make it easy for everyone to make a difference through microtasks.
So you’ve done a couple of usability studies, and a few people are starting to “see the light.” Now you’d like to take it to the next level and help your organization embrace user-centered design (UCD) as the philosophy that drives all your digital projects. But what is best way to do this? How can you change your organizational culture so the UCD seed you’re planting will take root and flourish?
We are in the middle of the holidays, and that means much driving to visit friends and relatives. I was just in Kentucky this past weekend where I spent a total of eight hours driving. I am sure many of you will spend even more time driving in the next three weeks. So, where do you find the best gas prices and how can you maximize your vehicle’s fuel mileage?
This month we’ll be highlighting articles about crowdsourcing. These are the programs that use a variety of online mechanisms to get ideas, services, solutions, and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their expertise, talents, and skills. Among the mechanisms are hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, prize competitions, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or microwork, citizen science, crowdfunding, and more. A brief look at history outlines a few notable prize competitions, crowdsourcing where solvers are given a task and winners are awarded a prize: The X-Prize and its many iterations from personal space flight to unlocking the secrets of the ocean, Charles Lindburgh’s flight across the Atlantic for the Orteig Prize, and the 300 year-old Longitude Prize, launched by an act of Parliament in Britain to determine a ship’s longitude with the goal of reducing shipwrecks.
It is fall when the weather becomes colder, and people start firing up their furnaces. While I was working on putting in more insulation and installing a programmable thermostat, I wondered if the federal government has an API to help me lower my utility bills. Yes, and it is a great API! The Department of Energy (through the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory) has the Home Energy Saver API which is a comprehensive service to analyze home energy use.
A website redesign is never an easy task, but when responsiveness is one of your redesign’s key goals, special considerations come into play that can present unique challenges. In the September webinar on Responsive Web Design Challenges in Government, we heard from two agencies who identified coordination, leadership buy-in and content decisions when mobilizing their websites. Marissa Newhall, acting director of the Office of Digital Strategy and Communications at the Department of Energy (DOE), shared the reasons for going responsive with the energy.
What’s your mobile itch? A long time ago at a workshop not so far away…we asked the 40 federal government innovators who had released native apps this question. We wanted to know their biggest barriers, challenges, frustrations to building anytime, anywhere government. Their generosity in telling us those pain points informed 2011’s Making Mobile Gov Project, which identified 10 challenges to implementing mobile apps and responsive websites for public audiences in the federal government.
Roughly 1 in 9 (11%) websites have adopted responsive Web design, according to research conducted by Guy Podjarny in January. While the number has risen in the last 7 months, I know you’re probably a little underwhelmed by that number. But if you are one of the agencies that have gone through the process of developing a responsive site, you are aware of the challenges that can often get in the way of progress.
The U.S. government has launched more than 45 challenge and prize competitions so far in Fiscal Year 2014. What trends are we seeing? Well, the trend is…diversity. That might sound like an oxymoron, but federal agencies are really putting themselves out there, asking the crowd to help tackle a wide array of problems. Until August 3rd, NASA is seeking ways to improve email for astronauts on the International Space Station.
Let’s face it: Some of us work to live. Some live to work. And all of us look forward to pay day. If you work for the Department of Defense, the Executive Office of the President, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, chances are that you are one of 6.
Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Obama launched the Open Government Initiative, an effort to increase transparency, participation, and collaboration in the federal government. The initiative introduced a number of websites and strategies to offer raw government data, including research grant information on data.gov. For energy gurus, data.gov/energy offers downloads of energy-related data such as energy use and consumption in the U.S. Yet the mere provision of big data is not enough; a key component of making big data accessible is providing context and meaning to that data to enable the public to solve problems, identify patterns, and draw conclusions.
In his May 23rd, 2012 Presidential Memorandum, President Obama directed Executive Departments and Agencies to: Implement the requirements of the Digital Government Strategy, and Create a page at www.[agency].gov/digitalstrategy to publicly report progress of this implementation. Consistent with Milestone Actions #2.1 (open data) and #7.1 (mobile optimization), agencies will post candidate data sets and services to open up over the next several months on these pages.