Three Innovative Tools You Didn’t Think The U.S. Government Could Build

John Paul Titlow | Fast Company | November 11, 2015

It seems like just yesterday that government tech was the laughing stock of the nation.

After the botched launch of in October 2013, it felt like the bugs, headaches, and negative headlines would never stop piling up. But the White House learned its lesson and from the ashes of that blunder, the Obama administration has begun rewiring how government approaches tech. It’s been just over a year since the launch of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) and the government digital services agency 18F, but the lessons—and poached talent—from Silicon Valley is already infiltrating the federal government and yielding results.

"There is a pervasive myth that it’s impossible to get anything done in government," said Haley Van Dyck, one of the cofounders of the USDS, during a panel on government tech at the Fast Company Innovation Festival yesterday. To counter this notion, the USDS, 18F, and other technology-focused people within the federal government have been busy injecting agile, user-centered principles into the biggest bureaucracy in the world.

So how is Obama’s renewed focus on tech paying off? Members of the USDS and 18F took to the stage at FCIF to show off projects that have already begun to come out of Washington. Anybody who’s ever tried to navigate a U.S. government website knows that the latest in modern web design standards often get lost amid clunky forms, baffling navigation menus, and 1995-style HTML table layouts. Things have certainly improved in recent years, but there was no way to guarantee that new sites would be designed in a visually appealing, user-friendly fashion...