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The Future of Interfaces to Government42:12 with Jennifer Pahlka
Can government be run like the Internet, permissionless and open? Coder and activist Jennifer Pahlka believes it can — and that apps, built quickly and cheaply, are a powerful new way to connect citizens to their governments — and their neighbors.
[NOISE] My skill set kind of is telling the story of 0:00 other people who are using their skills to do amazing things. 0:04 That's kind of what I do all the time. 0:09 And some of those amazing people are here today. 0:11 So I thought I'd start by introducing them. 0:14 Dan, Danny and Tiff. 0:15 There's Danny, where's Tiffany? 0:17 And there's Tiffany. 0:19 Danny is an amazing developer. 0:21 Tiffany is a totally impressive designer who'd come to the city for the year and 0:23 been working on a wide variety of projects, including the open data portal, 0:28 which if I don't mention six or seven times in this talk, I have failed. 0:33 Or working on that open data policy. 0:38 So they've taken a year out of their lives and 0:41 dedicated it to this notion that we can make government work better. 0:43 They're not the only ones. 0:47 Jill and Jim, lead up the Code for 0:49 America brigade here in Charlotte, Code for Charlotte. 0:51 They have a table outside the door and right there. 0:53 I hope by the end of this talk that you will feel absolutely compelled if 0:56 you live anywhere near Charlotte, to be a part of this amazing team. 0:59 They are only about eight months old, 1:03 have about 12 projects going that will blow your mind. 1:05 And they're just having a huge impact here. 1:08 And I believe at some point we'll have some folks from the city of Charlotte. 1:11 These are only two of the folks that Danny and Tiffany, and Jim, and 1:14 Jill have been working with over the year. 1:19 Jim Stovel isn't mentioned here, the CIO, but he's also been very very involved. 1:22 This is [UNKNOWN] Dermot and Tom Warshower. 1:28 And they are very much part of this story. 1:30 This isn't just a story of tech people giving, you know, their time. 1:32 This is a story of, of government opening up and, and bringing this in and 1:37 making it better because we're doing it together. 1:41 So Berman asked me to talk about the future of interfaces to government, 1:46 which is not how I have been talking about this recently. 1:49 I think it was a good frame, but 1:52 let me start with some of the interfaces to government that you might recognize. 1:54 This is a pretty good one. 2:00 It works. 2:01 It's right there. 2:02 Usually, at the place where you're parking your car, 2:04 telling you that the third Wednesday you can't do it. 2:07 The only problem is of course sometimes if you park your car on the first Monday, 2:10 you sometimes don't remember when the third Wednesday is, so 2:15 you get something like this. 2:18 A ticket, which is another interface to government. 2:20 Another one is being towed, which is kind of a user experience fail. 2:24 >> [LAUGH]. 2:28 >> And it happens a lot because people don't remember when the third 2:29 Wednesday is, and there's better ways to do that. 2:32 Here is interface two. 2:37 I would call it Politics actually not [UNKNOWN] but 2:39 how we affec elect our officials. 2:41 On the left you see what one of our fellows Molly McLeod got, and she was so 2:44 frustrated, she redesigned it, and 2:47 it's a lot clearer over there on the right, how to actually vote. 2:50 We see a lot of problems in this territory. 2:54 Remember when George Bush and Al Gore were facing off, and 2:57 there was a very confusing interface. 3:02 It was not clear exactly which Chad you were supposed to poke at and 3:05 kinda disrupted the country for several weeks there. 3:10 But interfaces like this, which, I guess, I'm not sure that's technically interface, 3:13 but when you think about your experience with government, 3:18 most people just go straight to this. 3:21 You know, standing in line somewhere, being pretty frustrated. 3:23 And the problem that we're facing right now is, 3:29 I kinda saw the Uber versus DMV problem. 3:33 Maybe Uber in the end will get us all to stop driving completely, 3:36 which would be great. 3:39 I know I have stopped, I have started driving a lot less. 3:40 I'm using public transit more because I know when the bus is, 3:44 or when in our case the BART in the Bay Area is gonna be there. 3:48 It means you have more confidence in it, 3:51 which is another interface to government data. 3:54 But in and, and taking Uber when I, when I don't need to do that. 3:57 But, but, you know, in, in the meantime, we're still going to the DMV and 4:01 having an experience like this in our interactions with government. 4:05 Where in other parts of our lives, you have that Uber experience or that Google 4:09 experience where your phone is telling you what it, you, you need to know. 4:13 It's getting, making things unbelievably convenient. 4:17 Getting you the data that you need exactly when you need it, and 4:21 you don't have to do anything for it. 4:24 You know, my phone starts telling me things about where I need to be when. 4:27 I didn't ask it to do that, it sort of started bossing me around. 4:31 But it's a, it's functionality that I get for free. 4:34 And the problem is that, that the bar is going up every day. 4:37 I, I loved, by the way, Burman using Uber for business to get here. 4:41 It was like, without me even doing anything, my expectation bar goes up 4:44 all the time, which means the government with lines like this, even if it's staying 4:50 steady, not getting worse, looks worse on its own [LAUGH] all the time. 4:54 And that has really led to something fundamental, which is, 5:00 it's not just the inconvenience. 5:02 When that bar keeps separating, we have an erosion of trust and faith in government. 5:04 And that is not an okay place to be in my book. 5:10 That's kind of where we've been. 5:15 This gap in user experience that's eroding our willingness to do things together and 5:16 at the end of the day, that's what's government is. 5:21 It's just a way that we do things together. 5:23 But last year, I spent, I took a year off from Code for America. 5:27 I took a, a leave of absence and I spent it working in 5:31 the White House Office of Science and Technology policy, as the Deputy CTO. 5:34 And I happened to be there when this happened. 5:39 We tried to launch a website that could enroll you in health care, and 5:42 it didn't work. 5:46 And it was front page news for a long time. 5:47 Unfortunately in the beginning I, of this whole experience I was furloughed. 5:49 I was back out in California unable to do anything about this site not working for 5:53 about two and a half weeks, which was really frustrating. 5:57 But I got very attuned to the news cycle then, 6:00 to the point where I was sort of like worked up every moment. 6:04 I was looking for the news and seeing what people were saying about this. 6:08 So I maybe be slightly overreacting to this, 6:11 but one of my favorite periodicals had this on the cover. 6:13 That's Kathleen Sibelius just crossing her fingers and hoping that this will work. 6:17 But I think we've kinda, we, we, we crossed a line into 6:22 something beyond erosion of trust and faith in government with healthcare.gov. 6:25 It's not just that this was a, you know, one of the well the leading 6:30 policy initiative of a, of a presidential administration that was, 6:35 that was potentially going to fall apart, after years and years of fighting, 6:40 whether you believe in the the, the, the legislation was the right one or not. 6:44 I think the anxiety that our culture was expressing over healthcare.gov on 6:49 the front pages of the New York of every newspaper for 6:53 many, many months, was beyond that. 6:57 It was really people going, wait a minute. 6:59 Whether I believed in that law or not, we're at the point where we 7:02 can't implement the laws and policies that we pass. 7:04 And there is a fundamental anxiety that comes with that that I 7:09 think crosses any political viewpoints. 7:13 Mike Bracken, who runs the Government Digital Service in the UK, 7:17 can you raise your hand if you've heard of gov.uk or the Government Digital Service? 7:21 Verman, you have to have these guys here, for the conference one year. 7:26 They've done amazing work, and I'll talk about that in a minute. 7:29 But Mike said it perfectly when he came to visit. 7:31 Unfortunately, he came to visit the day after the government shutdown ended. 7:33 And it was absolutely crazy in D.C, but he spoke to the Presidential Innovation 7:38 fellows that I was working with, and he said, this isn't a policy option. 7:42 It's a delivery crisis. 7:45 And I think that's exactly right. 7:47 So I worked for the guy, Todd Park who was the CTO of the country. 7:50 He unfortunately just changed jobs recently, which is, 7:56 I think it's great that he's staying with the administration. 7:59 He's a truly remarkable, wonderful human being. 8:02 As head of the office, of that part of the office of science and technology policy, 8:06 we were really not actually supposed to do anything about delivery. 8:09 We were on the policy side. 8:11 But, the president really trusted him and when the site went down, 8:13 he disappeared for a long time, and was working about 22 hours a day. 8:17 I'm actually not entirely exaggerating when I say that. 8:21 To get the site back upbringing and an incredible team together, who also worked 8:25 like absolute heroes to at least duct tape that site through the enrollment period, 8:30 and ended up enrolling 8.2 million people. 8:34 More people than we even thought they could do before this site failed, 8:38 which is truly remarkable. 8:41 And it speaks to the kinda sacrifice that you see people doing in public service, 8:44 and I hope everyone here who's not thought about the way your public servants have 8:48 sacrificed for you, would think about that a little bit. 8:51 But the point is, Todd. 8:54 So Todd sort of disappeared for awhile. 8:55 He, he surfaced for a couple days and came back and 8:57 said, I need to send you on another mission. 9:00 Once you, the Domestic Policy Council has realized that if this is 9:03 gonna happen to our healthcare initiative, it's prob, 9:06 all of the other presidential priorities are probably vulnerable too. 9:10 And he said, will you please go work with Citizenship and 9:12 Immigration, because if comprehensive immigration reform passes, and 9:15 that also fails in implementation, we're really up Shit's Creek. 9:19 So, I went in to start on a couple of different projects 9:23 within that we're going to have to take a much bigger hit, or at least, you know, 9:27 I guess, handle a lot more users if immigration reform passes. 9:30 One of them was this program called E-Verify. 9:35 And I think when the White House sent me over there to sort of 9:38 start poking around and seeing what was working and 9:42 not working over there, they had in their mind kind of what the situation appeared 9:45 to be those first couple of days when healthcare.gov was down, 9:49 which is something along the lines of, they probably need more servers. 9:53 Right? 9:57 [LAUGH] That's probably what's wrong. 9:58 And E-Verify is a program that is currently optional. 10:00 If you're an employer and you would like to make sure that the people you're 10:05 hiring are legally allowed to work, then you enroll in this program and 10:08 then you're easily able to check them, name and Social Security numbers. 10:11 Actually not a very complicated program at all. 10:14 In the back end, it's looking up a lot of data, so it's not simple. 10:17 And that way, but the user experience of it should be pretty simple. 10:21 This is something that will become mandatory, should immigration reform pass. 10:24 Not trying to get in too much politics here. 10:29 Really, this is a user experience issue, which means that like, 10:31 currently it's mostly large companies that have an HR staff that are using this. 10:34 But when, when I would say, immigration reform passes, every taco truck, 10:41 every nail salon, every, you know, self employed person doing web design or home 10:46 decoration, is going to have to use this system, and it gets a little complicated. 10:50 I did a tear down and I decided not to put it in cuz it takes a long time, 10:57 it's kinda depressing to like walk through the process. 11:00 But it's the requirements that we put on this really simple system, 11:04 like the fact that you have to sign, let's see which slide this is in. 11:07 You have to sign a really- 11:12 It's like a seven page e-verifying memorandum of 11:14 understanding before you can even use the system. 11:17 It's written in terrifying legal language that I don't understand. 11:19 There's a number of steps of it into, you have to enroll in e-verify using, and 11:23 watch a video about how to enroll in it. 11:28 It just, it, it shouldn't be that hard. 11:32 And then we, you started thinking about, oh yeah, 11:35 you probably are gonna need more servers, cuz you're gonna make every taco truck and 11:36 nail salon watch a damn video. 11:39 And this is government, so we can't put it up on YouTube. 11:41 You're gonna have to serve those videos. 11:42 And you see how this starts to be not a problem of technology, but 11:44 a problem of an experience designed. 11:47 It is completely committee-driven. 11:50 Everybody can add something to it. 11:52 Nobody can take anything out of it. 11:53 There're links that go back to the same page that you're on, and you go, yes. 11:55 [LAUGH] A lot of them, actually. 12:00 [LAUGH] And you, 12:02 you look at something like this and you say this is not a, just a delivery crisis. 12:04 This is a user experience crisis. 12:10 [BLANK_AUDIO] 12:12 Now, the experience with healthcare.gov also drew something out that has 12:15 become very important to us at Code for America. 12:19 And it's the realization that what, 12:21 one of the other reasons healthcare.gov was on the front page of the paper for so 12:24 long, was that the middle class had to use this interface to government. 12:29 But if you know anything about the services that we provide, 12:35 the poor have to go through stuff like that all the time. 12:38 And it's sort of become a bit of a social justice issue. 12:41 We knew that at Code for 12:46 America because in 2012 and 2013, we started working in social services. 12:47 This is a, a notice that you get when you 12:53 have enrolled in supplemental nutrition assistance. 12:56 It's the SNAP program. 12:59 It may be more familiar to you as the food stamps. 13:01 But one of the things that the Coach for America fellows that were working on 13:05 this problem found, is that most of the people who sign up for 13:09 SNAP in the first couple of months, get dropped off the rolls. 13:14 And it's because they got notices like this. 13:19 And let me see if I can- 13:22 I don't know if I can read this to you this really, very well. 13:24 It goes on, I promise not to read you the whole thing. 13:27 But it's things like, your foodstamp benefits in this quarter did not change as 13:29 a result of the documents information we received because it 13:33 would not have resulted in an increase in benefits. 13:36 Your food stamp benefits in this quarter did not change as a result of the document 13:38 information we received because the new rule says, when you report some changes, 13:42 the county cannot lower your food stamps until the next quarter. 13:46 I could keep reading. 13:49 I'm not going to, but you get, again, that's like this whole thing. 13:50 It says stuff like that. 13:55 You can read these things. 13:56 You have no idea what they mean. 13:57 So, these XCoach for America fellows, it was their job to sign up for this program. 14:01 Get all the notices, and try to stay enrolled. 14:04 And even they could not do it. 14:08 [LAUGH] So they, they, the, 14:09 the problem that was presented to them is the cost of this churn, 14:12 is people fall off the rolls and then have to reapply is really high, right? 14:15 You're having people go through that same process again. 14:18 You're having people process that paperwork again. 14:20 And that is a really big problem. 14:23 If you're a taxpayer you should care about that problem. 14:25 But the problem they were really tuned into was the following. 14:27 When you, when you, 14:31 when you think that your EBT card has been recharged, what do you do? 14:32 And this, the data shows this. 14:36 It, you go straight to the grocery store because it 14:38 means you probably haven't fed your family that week. 14:41 And if you go to the grocery store, and you buy all your groceries, and 14:45 you're standing at the front of the counter, and you run that EBT card, and 14:48 it says denied because you didn't fill out one of these forms. 14:52 And you didn't know that you've been dropped. 14:55 It's not good. 14:57 The people behind you in line are pissed. 14:58 They're going what's wrong with that person who can't pay, you know, who, who, 15:01 can't pay for their groceries? 15:04 You're humiliated and you go home and there's no food for your family. 15:06 And this is not okay. 15:10 This doesn't need to be this way. 15:11 We spend a lot of money on this program and we should not be getting that outcome. 15:13 And so, the fellas that were working on this program tried a whole bunch of 15:18 different things. 15:23 The process that we use at Code for America is extremely iterative. 15:24 We don't necessarily think we know the solution when we start out. 15:27 You can talk to Danny and Tiffany about that. 15:29 But they came up with a pretty simple solution, which is, 15:32 they started collecting phone numbers. 15:34 A lot of people, obviously, don't have access to the web, so [INAUDIBLE] not be 15:36 able to figure that out through a website, but they can text message them. 15:39 Your CalFresh benefits may stop at the end of this month. 15:42 If you have questions, call this number. 15:45 And they reduced the turn in that program by 40%. 15:48 And that's an interface [APPLAUSE] Thank you. 15:52 I [APPLAUSE] 15:54 I will pass that applause along to the people who deserve it who worked very 16:00 hard to make this a much better interface to government, thank you. 16:03 So this is what I mean about what's at stake in better interfaces to government. 16:09 Here's another example, a team that went to Louisville, 16:13 Kentucky in I think it was 2013. 16:17 The problem they were presented with there is that people are held 16:20 when someone's charged, generally, 16:24 with a very petty crime they're held pre trial at very, very high rates. 16:26 The data show you really don't need to hold these people in jail. 16:30 You can release them, but they're mostly not released. 16:33 Huge, huge costs. 16:36 Mayors across the country are going, you know, look at the giant, 16:37 giant line items in their budget. 16:41 It's pensions and it's jails. 16:43 And we do not need all these people to be in jail. 16:45 So we were at how we would use data to make better decisions pre trial. 16:48 And so as part of their experience, and I know this is a great selling point for 16:51 all of you to join Code for America. 16:54 They went to jail [LAUGH]. 16:57 Marcin was a developer and designer guy from Google who decided to deprogram for 16:59 a year and he got picked up by the Louis Metroville Police Department and 17:03 runnin around in their cruisers, and then actually had the experience because this 17:06 is what they were gonna be working on, of being booked into jail. 17:09 So that a record was created, they could see what data was collected, and 17:13 where it went, and how the user experience was like. 17:16 And when Marcin came back, he told me the story of literally going into jail, he, 17:20 they were taken to a cell, and as he and 17:25 his two teammates were walking down the corridor to the cell 17:28 a guy in another cell on a cot laying down said hey, warden, who are your friends? 17:33 And the Warden said, well, these are the Code for America fellows. 17:40 And the guy jumps up off the cot and 17:48 says, oh my god, I read about you guys in the paper. 17:50 Can I tell you all the things that are wrong with this system? 17:53 [LAUGH] And he, he started telling them about all the inaccuracies in the data. 17:54 The way that people get, all the mistakes that get made, and it was just remarkable. 17:57 And Marsha was like, I cannot believe that I'm doing this. 18:01 I'm like, I thought I was coming to write code for a year. 18:04 And I'm like, talking to this guy in jail, but 18:06 you kind of wonder what's wrong with our criminal justice system. 18:10 STEM that the guy who is booked and being held in jail is excited to 18:14 see not his lawyer but the guy who used to goo, Google doodles. 18:19 That's what [LAUGH] Marcian used to do. 18:24 There's a lot that is really significantly wrong with the system that we are all. 18:27 Financing, by the way. 18:32 In case that wasn't clear. 18:33 The citizen experience needs us. 18:35 This is an article by Cyd Harrell who's been with the organization for 18:39 a couple of years now. 18:42 Who was a US researcher. 18:43 And has been evangelizing this. 18:45 And helping fellows and others with with US practices at Code for America. 18:47 I'm gonna borrow from her slides for a second. 18:53 Second, when she's been talking about principles for civic design, and then I'm 18:55 gonna be so bold as to add a couple on my own, but she starts with respect. 18:58 And, maybe you don't need to have that as part of your design principles in the work 19:03 that you're doing with brands or whoever else, but when you think about that 19:06 language in the notices that the food stamp enrollees were getting. 19:10 I read that as a failure of respect. 19:16 It's well-intentioned. 19:19 Tensions, it really is. 19:20 We're trying to get accurate information, we're trying to make sure, we're legally 19:21 compliant when we do that, but speaking in a language that is your benefits may end, 19:24 please call us, is a way of showing respect; by communicating clearly. 19:30 The second one is participation. 19:34 And let's I'd t tell if I can tell it quickly, a story, 19:36 a couple of stories about participation, because we hold very dear this notion 19:39 that we live in a country that is run, has a government that is run not only for 19:45 the people with interfaces that show respect, by the people. 19:50 This is a story that happens in Honolulu, where three fellows went, 19:55 again, in 2012 and they were asked to look at the. 19:59 Honolulu's website. 20:02 Now, there was something like 30 or 40,000 pages of content on the site. 20:03 I don't think there was anything that's backing it up. 20:09 And there was no way that they were gonna be able to revamp that website, 20:12 the three of them, in less than a year. 20:16 Which is the, the time that the Code for America fellowship. 20:19 But, so they kept saying, let's find another problem, what to work on, well. 20:21 And they kept being brought back to the problem on the Honolulu.gov website. 20:24 This is how it looked at the time. 20:28 You can see it starts with government, 20:30 agencies of the department, the middle is news releases. 20:32 It's very much what government wants to be telling its citizens. 20:35 And they said, well what is it that people in Honolulu actually come to 20:38 the site to find out. 20:42 What are people looking for when they go there? 20:43 So they started with the data, which is another principle of code, right? 20:45 They said, okay, what are people searching for? 20:49 Turned out the soft, top search term was drivers license. 20:51 Most of you know that drivers license is handled at the state level. 20:55 But that's actually not true in Honolulu. 20:58 Because 85% of the population of the state lives in one city so 21:00 they have the city and county handle that function. 21:04 So I said great, let's type drivers licenses in a search on Honolulo.gov and 21:06 they'd, we'd get back a page like this. 21:11 They would click through and they would get a back a page like this. 21:13 I love reading, I was gonna read and bore you again, but 21:15 I can't really read it, the type is too small. 21:18 But you know that, it's a lot, there doesn't, there are dozens and 21:21 dozens of pages about drivers licenses. 21:25 That tell you things like, that if you are a service person returning from active 21:28 duty, you have a 90 day grace period before you need to renew it. 21:33 There was a page all about the new machines that they had bought 21:36 to make the driver's licenses. 21:39 What there wasn't was a page that told you how to get a driver's license. 21:41 [LAUGH] So they borrowed from gov.uk, a project I'll talk about in a second. 21:45 A search driven interface, very clean and 21:51 simple, and they wrote up a couple of these answers. 21:54 So if you type driver's licenses into this sort of alternate universe of 21:57 Honolulu website, which might, you'd get a page like that. 22:02 If you click through that third link, 22:06 you would get a page that tells you where you need to go, what you need to bring, 22:08 how much it's gonna cost, and where you, where to schedule your test online. 22:11 This is what the citizens of Honolulu need from their website. 22:16 The problem is they wrote ten, they wrote answers to the top ten 22:21 questions inherent in those top ten search terms, and that's not sufficient. 22:26 If they had, they would not be able to do all the rest of them. 22:33 So they said we don't actually need a hack-a-thon here. 22:37 The tech is fine. 22:40 What we need, or at least it was a fine start. 22:41 What we need is a right of. 22:43 So they took the next 60 search terms, 22:45 implied the questions behind those, put them up on a wall in. 22:48 Coworking space outside in a, on a Saturday morning. 22:52 At his place a couple blocks away from city hall. 22:56 They invited the community members that they'd met. 22:59 They invited the people from city hall that they'd been working with. 23:01 And a whole bunch of people showed up that day. 23:04 And they would go over the wall. 23:06 Take a question, research the answer, write it up in simple, clear terms. 23:07 Have each other edit it, those people from city government would check it to 23:11 make sure that it was technically accurate. 23:14 And by the end of the day they had all of those questions answered in 23:16 clear simple language within the How to Learn Answers format. 23:20 The other thing that happened was they had a really great time which is 23:23 thing that you should probably don't associate with government. 23:26 Government technology or government websites, but I guarantee if 23:29 you get involved with your brigade you will also have a really good time. 23:32 Josie was saying that there would be cupcakes involved with the next coke 23:35 Code For Charlotte Meetup for instance. 23:39 And that this is really important because if people are bonding around 23:42 an experience that not ju, 23:45 that's not just about helping themselves, it's about helping their community. 23:46 It's about feeling good about not having to 23:50 complain because you're fixing the problem yourself. 23:53 This has spread to many, many cities and I, as I understand there is also 23:57 soon going to be a Charlotte Answers but I like to brag about Oakland Answers. 24:00 I live in Oakland, California and I contributed to ours and 24:05 National Day of Civic Hacking last year. 24:08 I keep chickens and I want people to know that it is legal. 24:10 You should not keep roosters. 24:13 They are not legal and they are loud and annoying. 24:15 But this is something that you can do. 24:19 You don't need to write code, 24:21 you don't even need to be a designer as we've covered, I am not. 24:22 But I can write a simple answer that my fellow Oaklanders need to know about. 24:25 So we look at a couple of different lessons from this. 24:30 Interfaces to government can be simple, easy to use. 24:33 We don't need to just complain, we can not just offer our voices, but 24:36 offer our hands. 24:39 And that these, these, these solutions can spread really quickly and 24:40 the sum total of those lessons are yes government is hackable. 24:44 We just didn't think it. 24:48 I think it was, it's absolutely hackable. 24:49 But not only are the interfaces to government hackable, but 24:51 one of the things that the Code of America fellows have surprised us in 24:53 doing is showing us that our, our cities are hackable. 24:56 It's not just the government that is, the government is also in charge of, 24:59 you might've noticed, of things like our physical environment. 25:03 This is an amazing project that teams did, I think, again, in, in 2013. 25:07 It's a, it's basically a way that you can play it's a basic web interface where you 25:14 go on and say, I wanna, I wanna mashup the street that I live on, or any street. 25:18 The street that I'm, and it tell, it lets you sort of put in how many lanes and 25:22 then you can drop trees and you can change it. 25:26 You can say this is how my street looks now, but I want it to look different. 25:27 I want it to have a dedicated lane for busses. 25:31 I want it to have trees. 25:34 I want to have, get, get a lane for bikes. 25:35 And you can say let me reimagine my physical environment and then. 25:37 And then save these reimaginations and share them with people. 25:41 It's pretty amazing. 25:45 And then they've taken it further Tiffany and Danny and a bunch of others have 25:46 worked on a truly remarkable thing called Transit Mix that says, you know what? 25:51 Even those transit lines, where the buses and subways go, it's not immutable. 25:55 I guess subways are a little bit more immutable, but 25:59 we should be able to give feedback. 26:02 We should be able to re-imagine the routes, 26:04 the transit routes that we take every day. 26:06 And when we do that we can design them we can redesign them in the city and 26:08 would actually tell us the implications of those things. 26:13 And it will tell you in fact the cost if you see down to the bottom. 26:17 It's good to tie your imagination back to the reality of what it actually costs. 26:20 This is an amazing project and Tiffany and 26:23 Danny are happy to tell you more about it cause I think you'll be seeing more of it. 26:25 But it's, it's signalling to people that we actually can hack these things. 26:29 And it's giving people a language that they haven't had. 26:34 We see more and more of these stories about things like bike lanes, and 26:37 they are increasingly illustrated. 26:41 With screenshots from these apps is giving people the, 26:43 the language to talk about the ways we want to change the cities that we live in. 26:46 So participation is an incredibly strong principle for civic design and most 26:53 recently Sid pointed out to me another one that I didn't really understand. 26:59 I'd seen this project and 27:04 I didn't see what she saw in it until she talked about it in a sense of unity. 27:05 This also is out of Oakland where I live where the fellows last year were 27:10 dealing with a, a true crisis in faith in, 27:13 in our city hall and its ability to deal with public records. 27:18 Living there I can tell you this was genuinely very stressful with 27:22 something called Occupy Oakland. 27:26 And there were a bunch of records requests around it, and 27:27 they did, were not able to fill the records requests. 27:29 And it wasn't cause they didn't want to. 27:32 It was cause they didn't have any systems in place to deal with all of the info. 27:33 Flocks of people asking for public records. 27:37 But it's the law. 27:38 If you do something called FOIA, Freedom of Information Act, request your 27:39 government needs to give you that unless they have a really good reason why not. 27:43 And so they created a system to be able, to let citizens say, ask for 27:48 the records that they wanted in a public manner. 27:53 And what happens is everybody can see what record you have requested. 27:57 Which means that if you're requesting a record that someone else has 28:01 already requested and it's been fulfilled, we don't have to handle that. 28:04 You can just find it and use it. 28:07 But it also means that if you say, you know, I want all of ,. 28:09 All of these emails between these two people in this 28:13 timeframe are it's probably a bad example. 28:16 But if you make a request that's not clear and the person has to ask you a whole 28:18 bunch of, on the other end has to ask you a whole bunch of clarifying questions. 28:23 You might later go gosh, it took them four months to get that answer, 28:28 that date to deliver those records. 28:31 And you can sorta be, you know, tell that story as a failure of your government. 28:33 But if you can actually see that they were going back and forth and saying, no, 28:37 we actually need more information from you in order to be able to 28:40 fulfill that request, then the experience on both sides is visible to everybody. 28:43 And it really makes for a much more open and honest dialogue. 28:49 So this has been a huge success. 28:53 Its really fixed the problem, but the point that Sid made about it is that so 28:54 often the system that the citizen sees and the back end that the, 29:00 the system that the government worker is using are radically different. 29:05 And let me show you a couple of these. 29:09 When you go to the DMV and you're in line. 29:11 And you're pissed off and you're waiting a, and you're going up to a counter, 29:14 what you can't see is what is on that screen that that person is looking at. 29:18 These are screenshots of the software that this is pretty old now, that I asked 29:22 fellas to take a couple of years ago, when they were residents in their city. 29:25 So just show me the software that you looking at, it looks like st, 29:28 it looks like this. 29:32 Here's a great one. 29:34 It's got a dropdown menu but there's nothing in it. 29:34 >> [LAUGH]. 29:37 >> If these were the tools that you were using everyday do 29:38 you think you would be incredibly efficient and happy? 29:42 [BLANK_AUDIO] 29:47 They also a lot look like this. 29:49 I'm this is I didn't pull this off the web. 29:51 This is a picture of a green screen in New Orleans. 29:53 There's green screens in a lot of cities. 29:55 So when we give the, when record track allows the people in government to use 29:59 the same clean, simple, easy to use interfaces that the citizens are using. 30:04 You have an experience of unity between the outside and the inside. 30:09 And when you, but more importantly when you are, the next time you are in line or 30:12 at a counter in a government place, 30:18 please remember to ask if you can see the screen they're using. 30:20 And if you can't, just remember to have a little bit of empathy for 30:24 the experience that they're having on the government side. 30:27 I said I was gonna add a couple of principles to Sid's thing and 30:31 I think one of them would be relevance. 30:36 I talked earlier about my experience of having data. 30:37 Coming at me that I, you know, the data I need coming at me. 30:40 But if I'm even asking it all the time, whether it's Google Now, 30:43 or Uber, your car is here. 30:46 Fantastic, thank you. 30:49 And Tiffany and Danny, and 30:51 the folks in Charlotte have worked on something I think is really powerful. 30:53 And it sort of really, really closes that gap between the expectations that we 30:56 have now set in our private lives, and 31:01 what government can deliver using government data. 31:03 There's a great video of it. 31:05 Maybe we can send that link around. 31:07 But I didn't wanna futz with video. 31:09 So basically, what Citygram will allow you to do. 31:11 And it will allow you to do this once we get our open data 31:13 policy here in Charlotte. 31:16 Because then, this will connect to that data and say, I, as a resident. 31:18 Need information, I can use information about my neighborhood. 31:23 But it's very hard to say I want to know about public meetings and 31:26 special events and restaurant complaints. 31:31 Everybody wants to know about different things and 31:33 they want to know about it in different locations. 31:34 So, maybe for traffic accidents you want to draw, and the system actually lets you 31:37 draw polygons saying, I want to hear about traffic accidents in that area. 31:42 But maybe I want to know about restaurant openings around the entire city or 31:48 in four different neighborhoods. 31:51 Or maybe I want to know about new businesses. 31:52 This in this other area, where you get to draw that polygon. 31:55 You get to say, yes, I'm happy with the area above. 31:58 And then tell them, either your email, or your text, or 32:01 your phone number, and then say it will text you. 32:03 And then you go up and sign up for a different area for 32:05 a different a different set of notifications, which is pretty amazing. 32:08 So I think this starts to look like the future of interfaces to government, and 32:15 it looks like that cuz we're bring a different set of skills. 32:19 In a different attunement to the needs of user experience to the table. 32:22 I want to talk about a couple of others quickly. 32:27 How much time do I have? 32:31 I don't even know where I am in this talk. 32:32 But I promise to just give a brief shout out to something you should all be 32:36 paying attention to which is the Government Digital Service in the UK. 32:39 They were dealing with the same problem that I was dealing with in 32:43 federal government which is there are. 32:46 Literally thousands of government websites, they all overlap, 32:48 they all have different user experience, and a different designs. 32:52 And they are, they are maintained at a very high cost. 32:55 Actually, the federal government, we cannot tell you the number of websites, 32:57 because no-one is actually effectively tracking them. 33:02 But there's something like 1400 federal.gov domains, 33:05 of which we think there are 30 to 50,000 websites. 33:09 And what they did in the UK. 33:14 So, it's obviously user experience problem in a number of ways. 33:16 It, because the transaction also are confusing, but a very high rate of 33:19 failed transactions, resulting in, you know, huge call center costs. 33:23 Each user had to call the help line an average of seven times to get to 33:28 the result that they were looking for. 33:31 So it's across media, and 33:33 what they decided to do was not to make a pretty website and 33:35 port over all the content because the content wasn't getting us anywhere. 33:38 They actually rewrote the content for all of those websites. 33:42 In language that's readable by a ninth grader, banning buzzwords, and 33:47 making departments with different, and different things actually reconcile. 33:52 So very streamlined, simple, clear, 33:57 what you need to know about your government in the UK. 34:00 Not what the government wants to tell you, but what you actually need to know. 34:04 So, in the past you would have a, a page that would talk about VAT rates. 34:09 That's that tax that you pay when you buy, your mom buys a Burberry coat when 34:13 she's in London, and gets the money back when she leaves. 34:16 Ya know, and, and this 20% rate would be bar, barrowing in bunches and 34:19 bunches of text. 34:23 But what the designers in the Government Digital Service there know is 34:24 that 99.9% of people coming to that page just want to know the rate. 34:28 So they put it in big letters in big font at the top of the page. 34:32 It's an amazing team there. 34:36 They've really got the best and the brightest. 34:38 Best of the UK digital scene to come work in government, 34:39 which is an amazing trick in and of itself. 34:44 And what's a wonderful lesson around this is that not only do you have half of 34:47 your users and more users, but it costs less. 34:52 They're spending about a sixth what they used. 34:55 Use to spend to have better user interface. 34:57 We're picking up that in gov, federal government right now. 35:00 This is the U.S. Digital Services Playbook that I 35:03 worked on as part of the digital services reform agenda. 35:06 And it is somewhat deri, well it's very much derived. 35:10 From the principles, the user experience design principles of 35:14 the government digital service in the UK, adapted for American use. 35:17 A guy on O'Reilly Radar wrote a post about this thing. 35:22 This isn't just a playbook for government, this is a playbook that works for 35:26 pretty much everybody. 35:29 It's really good. 35:30 And we are actually trying to align procurement policies to enable that. 35:32 So we I worked with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to issue guidance, 35:37 about how to use contractors. 35:43 Because we still do, we mostly use contractors, to support an iterative, 35:45 customer driven, software development process. 35:49 As is routinely done in the private sector. 35:52 So this is pointing to a much more optimistic future. 35:56 Driven by a lot of, inspiration, primarily from our, our friends at the local what, 35:59 what is happening at the local levels, and from, and from overseas. 36:04 But there's still a really enormous problem. 36:08 And, I want to return for a moment, when I went to this, 36:11 this thing that we have all experienced with the failure of HealthCare.gov. 36:15 I had a moment when I was looking at those terrible news articles and stressing out. 36:22 When I remembered a blog post that I'd read a couple of years ago written by 36:26 a guy named Tom Steinberg. 36:30 Who has a sort of Code for America-ish, actually much pre-dating Code for 36:32 America non-profit in the UK. 36:38 And Tom wrote an article memorializing a colleague of 36:41 his who had unfortunately died. 36:44 But a guy who had a brilliant, brilliant young polymath, really. 36:46 He was, he was obviously a web developer, but did so many other things. 36:51 And what he was trying to say is that this man could've done anything with his life. 36:54 Incredibly talented. 36:58 But he had chosen to spend his life working on interface discovery, 36:59 working on civic technology. 37:03 And then he wanted people to remember this guy. 37:05 Because he says what Chris fundamentally had right was the understanding that you 37:08 could no longer run a country properly if the elites didn't understand technology in 37:12 the way that they grasp economics, or ideology. 37:17 In his analysis and predictions about what would happen if elites couldn't learn, 37:20 were savage and depressingly accurate. 37:26 Now this was written in 2012. 37:28 But, so, a year before healthcare.gov failed. 37:30 But I felt like he was speaking to that crisis that was coming, he could see. 37:34 That we were going to be at a place where we could no longer govern because we 37:38 can't implement traditional channels. 37:43 And he goes on to say that the idea of good governance and good. 37:46 What good governance and good society look like, 37:49 is now inextricably linked to an understanding of the digital. 37:52 And I think what I'm trying to say to you guys is that the future of interface is to 37:55 government, a, is very important and b, is inextricably linked to 38:00 people like you caring about it and doing something about it. 38:04 People like you have a skill that we desperately need to bring in to 38:09 this environment, which is the skill of, actually let me say it this way. 38:13 Mike Bracken has a big poster above his desk. 38:17 Show the thing, make some thing. 38:20 Lets get it going when you show the thing, when you mock something up when you 38:24 have a prototype we get out of these deadly water fall. 38:27 Practices that killed healthcare.gov, and we actually start making things that 38:31 people can play with, and iterating on them. 38:35 And you bring to the table that ability to iterate, 38:40 which is another way of saying making the user experience for 38:44 the people of our country just a little bit better every day. 38:47 That is what we need. 38:51 It is not some silver bullet. 38:52 When they asked the guys to fix health care dot gov they really thought they will 38:53 find some flaw. 38:57 We will fix that flaw and it will be done. 38:59 We needed more server, there was some configuration problem. 39:01 It's much deeper than that. 39:04 What they did was they spent six months working eighteen hour days. 39:06 Just looking at the data, listening to users, and 39:09 making it a little bit better every day. 39:12 It's a slog, but it's a really important slog. 39:15 This is how we express our, our sort of vision statement at Code for America. 39:19 Government can work. 39:23 Full stop, government can work, hello. 39:24 It can work for the people, by the people in the 21st Century if we make it so. 39:27 We don't mean we at Code For America we mean we the people. 39:32 But another way of saying it, 39:36 since we're talking to a lot of people who care about experiences. 39:38 It's government can work for people, real people, those people who are at 39:40 the front of the checkout counter and their EBT card doesn't work. 39:44 By the people, the people who show up for code for America brigades. 39:48 [BLANK_AUDIO] 39:51 I stole this quote from Tiffany people ignore design that ignores people. 39:54 Well we have been ignoring the design of government for far too long, and 39:58 the consequences are savage and depressing but they are also hopeful. 40:03 Government can work if we make it so if you want to. 40:08 To make it so, what do you do? 40:12 First thing you should do. 40:14 Who, here, lives in or near Charlotte? 40:16 You should be part of the Charlotte brigade. 40:19 No [LAUGH] questions, right? 40:22 Enormous, great things happening there. 40:24 And, the first thing you should be doing is being very aware that your city is 40:26 struggling with the choice about an open data policy right now. 40:30 All, almost all of the things I showed require there to be open data. 40:34 Certainly, City Graham does. 40:37 But so much of this, 40:39 a notion of by the people can only happen if the people can look at the data and 40:40 make that data relevant to people at the time that they need it. 40:45 the, again Charlotte Brigade table, right outside, no excuses. 40:48 Some of you should probably also consider about going to work at Federal Government. 40:55 The United States Digital Service is our answer to the GDS in London. 40:59 It's run by an amazing guy named Mikey Dickerson, 41:03 it's the thing I went to Federal Government to help stand up. 41:06 I'm very proud of it. 41:08 And it's going to be the way we have the healthcare.gov. 41:09 The way that we don't fail in the implementation of the next 41:12 important policies. 41:15 And if you're interested in talking about that, 41:17 please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. 41:19 But also, a lot of you should consider doing the Code for America fellowship. 41:22 We will be opening, our applications, around the beginning of next year. 41:26 We've got a lot of great cities. 41:32 well, we've got a great students signed up for 2015, but those guys are chosen. 41:34 So think about it for 2016. 41:38 This is just three of the ways that you can do good, 41:40 feel great about what you're doing. 41:43 And, again, have a fantastic time. 41:46 Remember, for the fun part of it. 41:47 But it's, there's a million other things that you can do, 41:49 and please don't let these ideas limit your imagination. 41:52 The important thing is to remember that it isn't someone else's job 41:55 because we didn't build our government that way. 42:00 We built it for the people by the people, so please come make it work. 42:02 And thanks so much for having me here. 42:05 [APPLAUSE] 42:06
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