Gov2.0: Challenge.Gov Aims to Make Government More User-Friendly

BY Chris Amico  September 7, 2010 at 6:40 PM EST

Two of the most consistent themes at this week’s Gov2.0 Summit is that government is bad at making the things it needs and it spends far too much on bad technology.

“Think about on a daily basis whether you’re booking a flight, your favorite restaurant or a hotel reservation, it’s done online; it happens in a couple of minutes,” Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, said in an interview with the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan. “Yet when you’re dealing with government, you have to stand in line, you’ve got to turn in a paper form or you’ve got to essentially hold on the phone.”

The solution, according to Gov2.0 advocates, is for the government to simply do less and allow citizens and (especially) software developers to build more.

But getting ad hoc communities to create services that usually come from the government is complicated, and when civic-minded technologists here talk about it, the conversation often strays into social psychology and economics and building better ecosystems.

“Oftentimes, it’s about asking what can the government not do that can be done better by these ecosystems,” Aneesh Chopra, the federal government’s chief technology officer, told the NewsHour. “The government’s role is to find data and release it.”

To that end, Chopra and Kundra on Tuesday unveiled Challenge.gov, a site built to organize app contests that have been successful in cities such as Washington, D.C., San Francisco and New York. The government’s two top technologists also told the NewsHour who is in charge of making the contents of President Obama’s BlackBerry public.

Hari Sreenivasan and Crispin Lopez contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter.