President Barack Obama announced Monday that he will bring more Silicon Valley tech experts into his White House to help devise a new government system called MyUSA to deliver “a smarter, more innovative and accountable government.”
MyUSA will, among other things, auto-fill citizens’ personal information on government forms and provide real-time tracking of benefits.
Obama’s initiative carries echoes of Vice President Al Gore’s 1993 “reinventing government” plan that purportedly applied private sector solutions to public sector problems.
Whether Obama’s attempt to reboot public perceptions about his Administration’s bureaucratic failures and inefficiencies will succeed now five years into his presidency remains to be seen.
Furthermore, in the wake of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandals, it remains unclear whether Americans will enthusiastically support Obama’s decision to bring more Silicon Valley gurus into his White House like those used to develop the NSA’s controversial PRISM system.
Obama says tech experts are building a new government system called MyUSA (formerly MyGov) that will auto-fill personal information so government forms can be filled in quicker. The system will also allow federal benefit recipients to track the status of their applications “in real time, just like you can follow the location of a package all the way to your doorstep.”
According to its website, MyUSA’s purpose is “to reimagine how citizens interact with government through an experience designed around their needs rather than a confusing and fragmented bureaucracy.”
The goal, says Obama, is to make his Administration function more like Google.
“Back in 2007, when I was first running for this office,” he explained, “I had the opportunity to visit Google headquarters in Mountain View in Silicon Valley to discuss ways we could use technology to allow more citizens to participate in the democracy and bring the government still largely in the 20th-century into the 21st century. After all, we had already set out to build a new type of campaign.”
Indeed, Obama’s networking with Google paid off, but not necessarily in the form of more efficient government. Google employees donated $814,540 to Obama in 2008 and $801,770 in 2012.